CMS Relaxes Mask Requirement For Teachers Alone In Classrooms

Aug 12, 2020

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools notified teachers Wednesday that they’ll no longer be required to wear face masks if they’re providing remote instruction alone in their classrooms.

The update comes as CMS tries to convince teachers it’s safe and practical to use their classrooms when remote lessons begin Monday. Some teachers have said they’d like to teach from school but didn’t want to wear a mask for several hours while talking to students online. Teachers have the option to teach from home.

"Most people want to work remotely from offsite," Lawrence Brinson, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said Tuesday. "But there are a number of educators who want to (work from classrooms) because they have internet access at the school, it’s more reliable than what they have at home. You know, you have your dry-erase boards, you have your Smart Board."

Here's the message that CMS sent to employees:

"Team CMS – 

We have updated the face covering expectations, as follows:

  • A face covering is not required when the employee (instructional staff only) is providing virtual instruction from a classroom when no other people besides the teacher/instructional staff member are physically present in the classroom.
  • Valve masks are not permitted as a substitute for face coverings.
  • Face coverings must be worn properly covering both the nose and mouth.

The complete and updated expectations are included below.

In compliance with the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Department of Public Instruction, all CMS staff are required to wear a face covering in school buildings and on school grounds at all times, subject to limited exceptions, as follows:

  • The employee is eating, drinking, or engaging in rigorous physical activity.
  • The employee is on a short or structured break in an area where the risk of transmission is low, e.g. outdoors, alone for a brief break, etc. Structured breaks are those scheduled by the employee’s supervisor.
  • The employee (instructional staff only) is providing virtual instruction from a classroom when no other people besides the teacher/instructional staff member are physically present in the classroom.
  • The employee has been granted an exception through the CMS Human Resources Department due to developmental, medical, or behavioral health needs that cause the employee to be unable to tolerate a face covering. An exception may require the use of a face shield.
  • The employee is having trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. 
  • Staff are required to wear a face covering when working in a classroom or area where no other people are present, unless taking a short or structured break. Similarly, staff must wear face coverings even when social distancing.
  • A face shield may not be substituted for a cloth face covering, unless the employee has been granted an exception to use a face shield by the CMS Human Resources Department.
  • A valve mask may not be substituted for a cloth face covering.
  • Face coverings must be worn properly covering both the nose and mouth.
  • If a staff member enters the school building without a face covering, the employee will be reminded to apply a face covering. The district will provide up to seven face coverings for any staff member who needs or would like them.
  • Any staff member who does not have an approved exception through the CMS Human Resources Department and who refuses to wear a face covering will be informed that they are not compliant with the district's face covering requirements and will be sent home. The matter will be referred to Employee Relations, and the employee may be subject to disciplinary action.
  •  Employees who feel they cannot tolerate a face covering due to developmental, medical, or behavioral health needs should contact the CMS Human Resources Department at accommodations@cms.k12.nc.us or via phone at 980-343-5893 to apply for an exception.
  • These requirements are based, in part, upon guidance provided in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) FAQs that can be found at the following link: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/education/Strong-Schools-NC-FAQs.pdf These FAQs are periodically updated and subject to change. 

Thank you for your cooperation in complying with the face covering requirements. We will keep all staff informed as guidance continues to evolve and wish everyone a successful first day of school!

Christine E. Pejot, Esq.

Chief Human Resources Officer"

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