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CMS: 'New' Screen Time Guidelines Are Old Ones With New Graphics

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
CMS has posted new "community friendly" summaries of screen-time guidelines.

Two weeks ago a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrator told the school board the district would issue new screen-time guidelines in response to parent concerns that their kids are spending too much time in front of computers.

Now, with parents asking when to expect relief, the district says it actually just repackaged the existing rules. At the end of last week, spokesperson Brian Hacker said, CMS sent principals new graphics on "remote learning screen time minutes."

Those graphics replace cumbersome labels like "synchronous and asynchronous learning" with "live session" and "on your own." But they still spell out 5 hours and 45 minutes of remote class time, a demand that some parents say is too much for young children. Some also say their children's computer time goes well beyond that as they work to complete online assignments.

"In response to feedback, CMS is providing a community-friendly document to support parent, student and caregiver understanding about the district expected designations for instructional minutes across content areas and grade levels," says the CMS text for a message principals can send to parents.

The message adds that "There may be times when a teaching and learning session runs long or ends early, but it should not exceed or fall below ten minutes of the indicated times unless there are extenuating circumstances communicated by your child’s school."

Chief Academic Officer Brian Kingsley said this week that the "on your own" time gives teachers and parents some flexibility to get students away from computers. He said the district is providing print books and worksheets for families who request that as an alternative to working online.

But many of the district's independent lessons are online, and assignments often have to be uploaded or completed online for credit. Kingsley says CMS is constrained by the state's requirement for instructional hours.

CMS has begun phasing in in-person classes, but online learning will remain a fact of life for months -- and for families who opt into the Full Remote Academy second semester, for the rest of this school year. K-12 students will return on a phased-in schedule between Nov. 2 and Jan. 18 and will alternate between one week at school and two learning from home. The rotation is designed to allow for safe distancing in large schools.