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CMS Board Will Vote Tuesday On Plan A Schedule For Middle And High Schools

Students at Eastway Middle School recently returned to a Plan B rotation, which requires 6-foot distancing.
Nancy Pierce
Students at Eastway Middle School recently returned to a Plan B rotation, which requires 6-foot distancing.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will vote Tuesday on shifting middle and high school schedules once again, this time to a four-day Plan A schedule.

If approved, this will be the sixth change to the CMS in-person class schedule since the academic year began. Board Chair Elyse Dashew says she understands that everyone is exhausted.

"I really, really feel for our principals, and our teachers, and our parents for all of this upheaval," she said Friday afternoon. "We just keep thinking 'This is it. Now it’s going to be stable.' And then we get another one."

This time, "another one" was last week's state decision to end the requirement for 6-foot distancing in classrooms and on buses for grades 6-12. That requirement forced CMS and most other North Carolina school districts to split students into two or more groups that take turns in classrooms.

Dashew said the state's "reopen schools" bill, along with additional state rules passed this week, meant stability is not an option. CMS has to offer all students a chance to move into or out of full-remote instruction, give about 18,000 students with disabilities a chance for Plan A in-person classes and revise its plan to move all students into remote instruction during year-end testing.

"Combine that with the continued low numbers with COVID in the community, and the continued increase in the vaccinations," she said, "and it just made sense to the superintendent to say, 'You know what? Let’s just call it Plan A.' "

Changes Are Widespread

In the past few days, most districts surrounding CMS — including Gaston, Union, Cabarrus and Catawba county schools — approved Plan A schedules for middle and high schools, offering either four or five days a week of in-person classes.

A CMS statement issued Friday afternoon says the proposed plan for older grades will likely mirror the one for elementary and K-8 schools. Starting Monday, those schools will offer four days a week of in-person classes, with everyone working remotely on Wednesdays.

The statement does not say when the new schedule would take effect, if approved.

The frequent changes in scheduling in CMS and many other districts have been driven by changing COVID-19 numbers and directives from state and local health officials. COVID-19 infection rates are down in Mecklenburg County and across the country. Friday's report from the Mecklenburg Health Department showed a small uptick in case rates and testing positivity, however.

After-School Programs Saved

Tuesday's school board agenda also includes a vote to restore some of the 60 after-school programs that were slated to close in a February vote. The district said low participation couldn't cover the costs. But some parents have argued that recent increases in in-person time for younger students will create more need for after-school care.

The agenda doesn't say how many programs could be restored. Closing 60 programs would have eliminated 224 jobs, beginning in April.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.