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CMS faces education in the era of COVID-19

District says the mask mandate should help slow or stop the spread of the virus.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the start of school about a week away, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools leaders say they are taking lessons learned from the past as they move forward with another year in the COVID-19 era.

"We were hoping this would be a normal or, at least, a normal-ish school year but it's looking like you've got to continue to ready for anything," said CMS School Board chair Elyse Dashew. 

Dashew said that the recent mask mandate is the right move to have a normal and safe in-class experience for students this fall. She also pointed out that the district mirrors its protocols with state and federal guidelines.

"So everything that we do is in alignment with what DHHS is telling us to do," she said.

MORE NEWS: More protection: US likely to authorize COVID booster shots

Dashew and other school board members were on the Belmont Breakfast weekly video conference. There, the board explained some steps they've taken to keep kids safe even as virus cases continue to surge in Mecklenburg County. Screenings and temperature checks have been dropped because they weren't considered effective. But Dashew said vaccinations are important and safe. This year, many schools will host vaccination clinics during school open houses.

But the main question at hand: what happens if a child or teacher tests positive?

Per CMS, students must undergo quarantine for at least 10 days, and receive their school work from teachers. There are no plans to send children to virtual classes if they have to be quarantined.

RELATED: Charlotte mask mandate to start Wednesday, county-wide mandate could happen by end of month

"Whether it's sending home paper packets or whether it's staying in touch online," said Dashew, "our schools are going to do everything they can to support students."

Because of the mask mandate, those who come in close contact with a positive case don't have to go through a quarantine period, which would save them from missing valuable class time. Dashew says COVID-19 widened the education gap. For many students in the district, just getting caught up will take time. 

"We do know that the impact of COVID on learning with our students," said Dashew. "It's very deep and it's widespread, and it's going to take years to recover from it."

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Contact Richard DeVayne at rdevayne@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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