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Thousands More CMS Students Choose Remote Learning, Especially In High Schools

David Boraks
Hough High in Cornelius had 425 of its 2,500 students choose Full Remote Academy first semester. For second semester more than 1,100 have opted out of in-person classes.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is seeing an increase in students opting out of in-person classes for the second semester, especially in several large high schools.

Numbers provided by CMS show just over 57,000 students enrolled in the Full Remote Academy for the semester that starts in January, compared with about 50,000 in the semester that's ending. That's 39% of all CMS students next semester.

The increase is driven largely by massive sign-ups at several large high schools. For instance, Hough High in Cornelius went from 425 of its 2,500 students in full-remote first semester to 1,127 second semester.

CMS has reported 14 student cases of COVID-19 at Hough, along with three staff cases, even though high school students have yet to report in person. The district tracks cases among student athletes who can spread the virus at practices.

Ardrey Kell and Myers Park high schools saw full-remote enrollment jump by more than 500 students at each school, while Butler, Olympic, Northwest School of the Arts and South Mecklenburg all saw increases of more than 200 full-remote students.

High school students are at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 than children under 10 are, and they're generally considered better at mastering remote learning.

Easier For In-Person Return?

Second-semester Full Remote Academy sign-ups came as cases were rising across the state and nation. Those who sign up are expected to stay in remote classes even when in-person classes resume.

The current plan calls for K-12 CMS students to learn remotely for the first two weeks of second semester. Students who are not in the Full Remote Academy will start in-person rotations Jan. 19 — if district leaders deem it safe.

Tensions run high between people who want students to have access to in-person classes every day and those who think keeping students at home will save lives. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has urged Congress, states and cities to provide support to restore in-person classes as quickly as possible in 2021. Many Republicans have pushed for more in-person classes this year.

In-person advocates say the Full Remote Academy means no students are forced to come in person — though educators may be. Higher numbers opting out of in-person classes may make safe distancing easier for those who do return.

The latest numbers indicate 20 of the district's 176 schools will have fewer than half their students reporting in person next semester. Those schools are Olympic High, Governors Village STEM Academy (upper and lower schools), Grier Academy, Long Creek Elementary, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, Dorothy Vaughan Academy of Technology, Statesville Road Elementary, Butler High, Mallard Creek High, Ballantyne Elementary, Stoney Creek Elementary, Barringer Academic Center, Parkside Elementary, Ridge Road Middle, Northwest School of the Arts, Newell Elementary, Blythe Elementary, Berewick Elementary and J.M. Alexander Middle.

Most schools will have in-person attendance of 70% or less.

Only a handful of full-size schools will have more than 80% attending in person: Selwyn, Grand Oak, Sharon, Dilworth/Latta and Dilworth/Sedgefield, all elementary schools.

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