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Two Clusters, 863 Cases: CMS Wraps Up First Semester Of COVID-19 Reporting

CMS mask books.jpg
Nancy Pierce
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has books to teach children about social distancing and wearing masks.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had 544 employees and 319 students test positive for COVID-19 first semester, based on the latest report presented Tuesday.

CMS started reporting student and staff cases in early October as part of a metrics report designed to show whether it's safe for students to attend in-person classes. Students began their second semester in all-remote mode Tuesday.

The latest report covered winter break, with cases reported between Dec. 19 and Jan. 3. Chief School Performance Officer Kathy Elling said student cases were based on parents reporting children's illness to their schools.

None of the reports provide a clear answer on the risks of in-person attendance. Community spread measures have been in the red zone, which can indicate unsafe conditions, for weeks — not just in Mecklenburg County but across much of the state.

CMS has about 19,100 employees. The 544 cases include 50 who aren't stationed in schools. District leaders have said quarantines amplify the staff challenge because people in close contact with anyone who tests positive have to isolate.

As of Jan. 3, CMS reported being in good shape for teachers, custodians and cafeteria workers. Staffing levels for nurses and bus drivers are in the yellow caution zone.

Most Schools Had Small Number Of Cases

The district doesn't post cumulative tallies. But WFAE tracking of the weekly reports shows that since CMS began posting cases by school in November, 156 of the district's 176 schools have had at least one COVID-19 case.

The 319 student cases are mostly from elementary, pre-K and K-8 schools that held in-person classes first semester, as well as some high school athletes who attended practices where the virus could spread.

Most schools show only a handful of cases scattered over time, consistent with officials' reports that schools generally have not been the focus of spreading the virus.

Elling said Tuesday that Metro School, which serves students with disabilities, has been identified by health officials as the district's second COVID-19 cluster. That's when the local health department determines that at least five cases are connected to a school.

Metro has reported 14 cases -- 11 staff and three students -- since CMS began reporting in November.

The other cluster is at Bradley Middle School. Bradley had 12 cases in December, two of them students.

27 Cases At Hough High

Hough High School in Cornelius has by far the highest number of reported cases, even as CMS high schools remained in remote learning throughout first semester. The school has reported 23 student cases, primarily among athletes, and four staff cases.

When asked why that hasn't been classified as a cluster, CMS communications chief Patrick Smith said that's based on the health department's contact tracing. "Unless or until county public health officials notify us that there are five or more related cases, no cluster is identified," he said Tuesday.

Twelve other schools have logged 10 or more cases. They are:

  • Rea Farms STEAM Academy, with nine staff and four student cases.
  • North Mecklenburg High, with eight staff and four student cases.
  • Croft Community School, with six staff and five student cases.
  • David Cox Road Elementary, with seven staff and four student cases.
  • Irwin Academic Center, with seven staff and four student cases.
  • Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, with six staff and four student cases.
  • Huntersville Elementary, with eight student and two staff cases.
  • Mallard Creek High, with seven staff and three student cases.
  • Piney Grove Elementary, with seven staff and three student cases.
  • Quail Hollow Middle School, with nine staff and one student cases.
  • Jay M. Robinson Middle School, with 10 staff cases.
  • J.V. Washam Elementary, with six staff and four student cases.

What Comes Next?

Elling says schools are preparing to reopen for in-person classes Jan. 19.

"At this time we are asking principals to do an inventory of (personal protective equipment), make sure they have what they need, and if they don’t have what they believe is sufficient supply on hand that they take this week and next week to go ahead and order those supplies from our warehouse and we will get them delivered," she said Tuesday.

Superintendent Earnest Winston and the school board say they'll watch what happens in the next two weeks. The school board is scheduled to meet Jan. 12.

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