CHARLOTTE, N.C. — CMS students will leave the classroom once again, the entire district going back to full virtual learning on Monday, December 14. It’s to protect students and staff as community transmission rises.
The Board of Education voted 6-3 on Tuesday night to make the change. It came after the hours-long debate thousands of people were watching virtually.
"The joy of learning, a lot of it goes away in a remote setting,” said Rose Herring, a parent to 3 CMS students. She voiced her concerns and opinion at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The change comes before most middle schoolers and all high schoolers could even get into the classroom once this school year. The pause on in-person learning lasting until at least January 19, well after families could be gathering for the holidays.
"Simply put, we believe it is in our best interest for the health and safety of our students to return to remote instruction,” said Superintendent Earnest Winston.
All Pre-K students and some students with special needs will stay in-person full time. CMS officials said the youngest students have the smallest risk to get the virus but are at the most at risk to suffer from the loss of in-person education.
More CMS students than usual are failing this year, and it’s a national trend. Some people are now wondering if this change is hurting them more than it’s helping.
"We don't even have broad transmission in a classroom in order to pull that classroom out, and yet you're recommending imposing further remote learning on our youth,” said Board of Education member Sean Strain.
There aren’t any clusters in CMS schools right now, but in Mecklenburg County, community spread and test positivity rates are up.
“It's a sound decision that's based in a very real situation of being mindful of how covid is affecting the county as a whole,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Other counties across the state are making similar decisions to go back to virtual learning. Walker Kelly said it's difficult to compare districts because the decisions are based heavily on what is happening in the individual county.
Many teachers are relieved by the decision the board made.
"It's getting really scary. We know our schools are part of our community and we know that if there's covid out there, there's covid in here as well,” said Justin Parmenter, a middle school teacher. "Things are really bad right now but I think we can see a path through to the other side and we'll get right back in the saddle as soon as we can and get back to doing the job we all love to do.”
However, some parents don’t think children’s overall well-being is a priority.
"Looking around in Charlotte, we see malls and bars and restaurants and gyms are crowded. And yet our schools were first to close and looks like they'll be the last to reopen,” said Herring.
Parents and school officials acknowledged that teachers are doing their best to make virtual learning work. But the virus has highlighted inequities in our society and there’s concern vulnerable students will fall further behind. Earlier this school year, the district worked to get internet hot spots and set up public WIFI areas in school parking lots.
Tamika Walker Kelly with NCAE said finding solutions will take a village.
“It’s going to take a considerable amount of funding from the state and federal government in order to provide resources to address some of those inequities and it’s going to take creative solutions as well and that cannot all fall on the school system,” said Walker Kelly.
Middle and high school students are still required to take end-of-course exams next week. If they are uncomfortable taking them in person, they can take an incomplete in the course and make the test up in June.