Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has canceled all field trips and all staff travel outside of the county as concerns about the coronavirus spread.
Union County Public Schools made a similar announcement Tuesday.
A sign of how seriously CMS is taking the risk – and how confusing this situation is for schools and families – is Piedmont Middle School’s trip to New York City.
A group of students and adults flew to New York on Tuesday morning. The district summoned them straight back home as the New York metropolitan area saw coronavirus cases rise past 100. A CMS spokeswoman said the group returned to Charlotte on Tuesday evening without ever leaving the airport.
Superintendent Earnest Winston announced Tuesday night that he’s now canceling all field trips, even if it’s just across town, effective immediately and lasting indefinitely.
"I wanted to ultimately err on the side of caution," he said. "I am not willing to risk the safety of our students and our staff."
Winston said the situation is changing fast, and he’s not sure yet how this will affect families who have already paid for upcoming trips or schools that are in the midst of fund-raisers for travel.
"We certainly understand and respect the fact that for many families this may create a hardship, and we’ll certainly work with all families and vendors at the appropriate time," he said.
The one exception – for now – is travel for athletic playoffs or other school-related competitions.
"We are awaiting guidance from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association about next steps," Winston said. "In addition we will be talking early tomorrow morning with other large districts across North Carolina about the best way to handle athletic and other competitions."
Meanwhile, staff will no longer travel on CMS business outside Mecklenburg County.
Winston says he’ll consult with the health department on whether the Piedmont group needs to be quarantined because of its brief trip to a New York City airport.
At the beginning of Tuesday's school board meeting, a woman who identified herself as an Asian educator, parent and CMS employee urged the school board and administration to take preventive measures not only against the virus, but against anti-Asian bullying and racism that stems from it.
Benna Haas said the district's statements and actions have been appropriate, but "the narrative of discrimination toward Asians living in this country has become real" because people fear the sometimes-fatal illness that started in China.
Winston said he agrees that "this behavior is unacceptable and we must address it when it occurs."
"It is extremely important to be mindful that this virus is not linked to any ethnic or racial group," he said.
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