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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Cabarrus School Board Votes To Start Plan A Classes For Youngest And Most Disadvantaged Students

Cabarrus park-in close-up.JPG
Meredith Newman
Some teachers parked outside Saturday's Cabarrus County school board meeting to protest plans to launch Plan A in February.

Updated 1:45 p.m.

The Cabarrus County school board voted 5-2 Saturday to bring some students back to school four days a week starting Feb. 16. Currently, all schools are in Plan B, with students attending two days a week of in-person classes and three days of remote learning.

The new Plan A schedule will apply to students in prekindergarten through third grade, as well as students with disabilities, homeless students and English language learners. Fourth- and fifth-graders are scheduled to return to Plan A on March 15.

The state requires middle and high schools to use Plan B, which requires greater distancing in classrooms and on buses. Older students are at higher risk for contracting and spreading the coronavirus, while younger and disadvantaged students are at greater risk of losing ground academically if they're limited to remote learning.

Cabarrus park-in line.jpg
Meredith Newman
Cabarrus County teachers lined up outside Saturday's school board meeting with signs opposing a return to Plan A.

Some teachers parked outside the board's Saturday morning planning session with signs urging members not to vote for Plan A.

In a statement sent after the vote, the Cabarrus Association of Educators said the five-member majority "ignored their decision-making health metrics to placate a small but vocal contingent in Cabarrus County."

"The board has made the lives of the people in Cabarrus County needlessly difficult with their constant unwillingness to listen to the experts and total lack of consideration," the association's statement says.

COVID-19 In Union County

Meanwhile, Union County Public Schools announced over the weekend that two elementary schools are converting to remote lessons this week because of COVID-19 cases.

Five students at Weddington Elementary tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, "and as a result, several students and staff members may have been exposed to the virus," the district reported Sunday afternoon. All Weddington Elementary students and staff will work remotely until Feb. 8.

The district says that "several Benton Heights Elementary teachers and staff have been impacted by COVID-19," leading to a cancellation of in-person classes for this week.

Union County's elementary schools are using Plan A, with in-person classes four days a week.

CMS Reports Mixed Bag

Monday afternoon's COVID-19 metrics report from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools showed the number of staff and student cases reported last week are down from the prior week. The most recent staff count is 73, down from 115. The district heard about 37 students testing positive, down from 55.

Because all schools were working remotely last week, those numbers mostly represent community spread. The latest tally includes six student cases and five staff cases at Butler High. On Friday, county health officials classified Butler as one of three school clusters in CMS, based on spread among the men's basketball team.

CMS Strategy Manager Damon Willis said measures of community spread are down slightly, but still well into the red zone that indicates in-person classes may not be safe.

He also said some staffing levels are dipping below the ideal level for operating in-person classes.

"Child nutrition, transportation, custodial staff coverage and nurses are all in yellow," he said. "This is a bit different from last week. Last week we had child nutrition and transportation and custodial staff coverage in green."

As usual, CMS staff presented the numbers Monday but did not explain or elaborate. Staffing for cafeterias, buses and custodial services fell just below 90%, which is considered fully ready. Yellow ratings simply indicate CMS leaders could consider remote learning if trends are moving the wrong direction.

As recently as Friday afternoon Superintendent Earnest Winston said CMS is ready to resume in-person classes when health officials give the all-clear.

CMS has all schools in remote Plan C until mid-February, based on the urging of Mecklenburg County's health director. The CMS board is scheduled to get a report on COVID-19 at Tuesday's meeting, but will not vote on whether to move ahead with resuming in-person classes until Feb. 9.

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