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Last-minute calendar change gives CMS students a 4-day Halloween weekend

Haley Phelps

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted Tuesday to make Monday a teacher workday. That gives about 140,000 students a four-day weekend.

The old plan called for students to report to school Monday, then stay home for a Tuesday teacher workday that coincides with Election Day. Superintendent Earnest Winston asked the board to let kids stay home Monday too. He said elementary school teachers need the time to work on time-consuming science-of-reading training required by the state.

Deputy Superintendent Matt Hayes said middle and high school teachers will use the extra day without students to catch up on planning. Shortages of teachers and substitutes have forced many educators to use planning periods to cover other classes.

Board members said they know the last-minute change will pose problems for some families.

"I've gotten a number of emails with conversation on having to scurry to find some child care," said Margaret Marshall.

"My heart is a little bit torn for all the parents that are lacking a place for their child to be that’s a safe place if they have to be at work," said Rhonda Cheek. "Then I have a whole nother group of elementary-age parents that are so happy that their kids don’t have to get up and get on a bus the morning after trick-or-treating."

Cheek and Marshall said they supported the change despite the hardship for some families because they believe the reading training is important to help students build essential skills.

Board member Sean Strain cast the only vote against the calendar change. He says students need all the class time they can get to make up for pandemic setbacks.

But Winston said it's important to take care of teachers, too.

"Anything we can do to provide supports for our teachers and at the same time improve morale of our teaching force, kids are better served for that," he said.

Winston is also adding three early-release days to give teachers more time for training and planning, bringing the total to seven. That time will also be used for the reading program, which will take the rest of the school year, and for planning.

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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.