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'I have no faith in CMS' | Parents frustrated with virtual decision plans to pull students from district

It's been a school year full of controversial board meetings, confusion, and hard decisions: virtual learning, in-person instruction, or both. Now, another decision.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some CMS parents are now preparing to pull their children out of the district after the school board voted to extend virtual learning, again. 

The board approved the vote 8-1.

Under the new plan, elementary and K-8 students with special needs will not return to the classroom until at least Feb. 15.

Middle and high school students will not return to school until at least Feb. 22. Teachers will return to the classroom the Thursday before.  

RELATED: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools votes to keep students virtual until at least Feb. 15

"I'm devastated. My kids are devastated," said Meg Kemp, a parent of two CMS kids who have struggled to learn virtually. 

"I'm done. I'm done. I have no faith in CMS," she added. "They don't have the interests of the students in mind at all."

Kemp isn't alone. 

Thursday morning's decision by the board was also a blow to Melanie Miller and her family. She has two special needs children who are very bright, but cannot comprehend through a computer screen. 

"To go backwards like this is just heartbreaking," Miller said. "I'm irate, I'm angry, I'm disappointed, I feel like my children have been abandoned by CMS." 

RELATED: Charlotte-area private schools sent scrambling after county's public health directive announced

CMS leaders took the directive of Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris, who strongly encouraged schools and businesses to work remotely, although she did not mandate it. 

"We are doing our best with the cards we've been dealt," said CMS Board Chair Elyse Dashew. 

"It has been agonizing and heart-wrenching to have to bring such a recommendation in light of all that our students have been through in the past almost a year now," added Superintendent Earnest Winston. 

Harris has long said the best place for kids to be is in the classroom and even noted schools are not a large source of transmission for COVID-19. However, no matter how good or promising the CMS metrics looked, Harris, said it's too risky with the amount of community spread in the county.

RELATED: Tracking coronavirus data: Carolinas outbreak map

"Our teachers are being exposed. Our children are being exposed. And they do come in and as we bring more and more children in the possibility of spread goes up. We have way too much virus in our community right now," Harris said. 

Kemp doesn't agree and is fed up with the back and forth. 

"Stop giving us a false sense of hope," she pleaded. "We all know they're not going to open the doors. So just tell us. Be honest and open."

Her straight-A students are getting by, but they aren't learning the way they should. 

"This nonsense of the kids will catch up -- When? When are they going to catch up? They're not," Kemp said, frustrated at the toll virtual learning is taking on her kids' mental health and education. 

RELATED: Fort Mill School District will now re-evaluate in-person learning plans every two weeks

She and Miller are at their breaking points. 

Kemp, who specifically selected the neighborhood she moved into just so her children would attend specific CMS schools, is about to take them elsewhere. 

"Whether it's moving out of Mecklenburg County or into a private school, if I can get into one and get some financial aid and grants," she said. "Where there's a will there's a way."

She's not alone. Kemp said she's part of a Facebook group consisting of nearly 2,000 CMS parents. Some are thinking about pulling their kids from CMS and others already have, according to Kemp. 

RELATED: UNC Charlotte pushes back the start of in-person classes to late February

RELATED: Colleges face tough decision of returning to in-person classes spring semester as COVID cases continue to rise

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