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Even With More Students In Person, COVID-19 Cases Among CMS Staff Hit Six-Month Low

A classroom in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Community House Middle School displays COVID-19 safety signs.
Nancy Pierce
A classroom in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Community House Middle School displays COVID-19 safety signs.

Monday's weekly tally of COVID-19 cases in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools showed the lowest weekly number of employee cases since mid-October when the vast majority of students were still learning remotely.

In the week that ended Friday, 14 of about 19,100 employees tested positive. That’s down from 24 the previous week and a high of 115 cases in mid-January, when community spread was rampant and in-person classes were temporarily canceled.

The declining case count comes amid the convergence of two trends: Most educators have had a chance to be fully vaccinated, and more students than ever are attending in person. In CMS and many surrounding districts, April 12 marked the first time middle and high schools opened under Plan A, with six-foot distancing no longer required.

CMS reports that 68 of 84,572 students attending in person tested positive last week, and 76 of 176 schools had at least one student or staff case. The largest number at any one school was six student cases at Martin Luther King Middle School. Last week, six schools had at least one classroom that had to shift to remote learning because of the possibility of exposure or staff shortages: Huntersville, Idlewild, Lansdowne and Polo Ridge elementary schools; Mountain Island Lake Academy and Ridge Road Middle School.

The number of student cases has been higher in the past two weeks than they have the rest of the school year, but trends over time are not comparable because of the fluctuating in-person attendance schedules.

Students in elementary and K-8 schools came back in November but returned to remote instruction during the winter when community spread spiked. Since they returned in February their attendance schedules have changed twice.

Middle and high schools remained in full remote mode until late February when they were split into smaller groups that attended on alternating rotations. They've only been allowed to attend all at once since April 12.

When students aren't at school, CMS officials say they learn of student cases only when parents notify their schools or when health officials are investigating possible school spread.

The district currently has about 61,000 students across grade levels who remain in full remote instruction by choice.

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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.