Today the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education will vote on whether to reopen schools (Plan B) or to continue with remote instruction for the time being (Plan C). It’s a decision with huge ramifications for nearly 150,000 students and 20,000 employees.
The board will enter closed session at 3:30 and is scheduled to begin a public meeting at 4:30 where a vote will be held. You can view the meeting on Facebook Live here.
Reopening schools would have 1/3 of students rotate through at a time while the other 2/3 learn at home or at a daycare facility with other children.
Under Plan B, parents would also have the option of choosing full remote if they are not comfortable with the risk of sending their children to school. Although there would likely be a limited number of “alternative assignment” remote teaching positions available to people who fit certain high risk categories, thousands of CMS employees would not have a choice but to return to full time face-to-face work.
COVID is still largely a mystery to medical experts, and while we can say that health and safety are our number one priorities, we have to admit that none of us has a real handle on how much danger we’re facing right now or how much risk we’d be taking on by opening our buildings to in-person learning. We don’t know if this virus can be contracted twice, we don’t know how much children spread it, and we don’t know what the permanent damage to the bodies of those who survive COVID-19 might be.
In fact, about the only things we know for sure is that this virus is highly contagious, potentially deadly and that it is disproportionately impacting families of color. We also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your safest way to not get it is to avoid crowds of people.
I think every educator agrees that the best place for our students is in school. We feel that in the very fabric of who we are, and it’s the reason that we stay in this often underpaid and under-respected profession, because we know that our schools can open doors of opportunity for our students and provide for so many of their needs.
With all of that said, as we weigh the risks and benefits of each approach we have to look at the data and the facts. Yesterday North Carolina set new records in single day deaths from COVID and new hospitalizations, and COVID infection rates in Mecklenburg County are much higher than they are anywhere else in NC.
If the Governor’s offering of an optional plan C for any county that needs it was the right choice for any county it would be Mecklenburg.
That’s why the most prudent choice for our board today is Plan C. I would like to see our board work with local and state health officials and take a systematic, data-driven approach to this problem by setting a benchmark infection rate goal for our community to achieve before the risk is low enough to justify reopening schools. A decision of this kind of importance should be made through that kind of careful consideration of facts and data and not through emotions.
I wish our local officials the best as they grapple with how to best guide our community through this difficult time.