Board Chair: CMS Plan To Bring Students Back Isn't Ready For Public Reveal

Sep 7, 2020

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders have been showing "experts and stakeholders" a preliminary plan to bring students back to schools as early as next week. But board Chair Elyse Dashew says the plan isn't ready to present at Tuesday's board meeting.

While the draft document cites Sept. 14 as the earliest possible date for bringing some students back, Dashew said Friday evening she doesn't believe that's realistic.

WFAE requested the draft presentation through North Carolina's public records law. It outlines two approaches to starting a "Plan B" schedule with students in socially distanced classrooms. Both start with the youngest students and include the three-week rotation the district had outlined in July.

Credit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

One model would bring grades preK-3 back first, with older grades phased in over 15 weeks. The preK students would attend continuously, but all others would alternate one week in school with two weeks learning from home to allow safe distancing on buses and in schools.

Credit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The second model would bring back sixth- and ninth-graders during the first round, allowing everyone to return in nine weeks. 

The 10-page draft presentation says special needs students who are in self-contained classrooms would also be among the first to return regardless of grade level. Other students with disabilities, students who are learning English and those who lack stable housing would also be considered for priority return, the plan says.

Credit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. and streams live on the board's Facebook page, includes a report from the panel of medical and CMS volunteers advising the board on metrics to decide when it's safe to bring students back. CMS has been in full-remote "Plan C" since Aug. 17.

The metrics panel held its first meeting privately. After WFAE raised the question of violating the state's Open Meetings Law, the panel's second meeting on Aug. 27 was public. The group discussed the type of measures that would be useful but didn't set any guidelines for bringing students back.

The next meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday.

In text messages sent Friday evening, Dashew said Tuesday's update from the panel would be "a key milestone."

"I expect we will receive recommendations for a phased re-entry soon, but not as soon as the September 8 meeting," Dashew said. "Staff presented some preliminary thinking with the board last week. Since then, they have been engaging experts and stakeholders to vet the possible plans, and fleshing out/improving the plans based on feedback."

She said she expects a public presentation "soon," but not Tuesday. As for a start date, Dashew said, "I don't see how mid September would be possible. And I highly doubt that would be the recommendation."

The draft presentation says students, principals and teachers will be engaged in creating the plan, which will also be "vetted" through virtual town halls for families.

Credit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.

_