Margaret Marshall acknowledges there are a lot of unanswered questions as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools launches a new remote learning experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re all working to make the most unusual beginning of school we’ve ever had to work as smoothly as it can, given the circumstances,” said Marshall, who represents south Charlotte on the school board. “Every community in the country is dealing with the same problems we are.”
As CMS and Union County Public Schools prepare for the first day of school on Aug. 17, here are 10 storylines we’ll be following during the 2020-21 school year.
CMS school board member Rhonda Cheek recently expressed concerns about the quality of remote learning last spring, but Superintendent Earnest Winston believes teachers can keep students engaged this fall due to having more time to prepare. “I am confident that all of our students will be challenged and have opportunities to learn and develop,” he said Aug. 11.
High school athletics
CMS is behind other districts in terms of fall sports practice, but it may not matter. The N.C. High School Athletic Association has postponed most sports to November and football to February. While that provides some hope to student-athletes and coaches, we don’t know how COVID-19 will manifest itself in those months.
COVID-19 has enriched our vocabularies with phrases like pandemic pods. Companies, organizations and neighborhoods are providing the means for students to get remote learning, allowing parents to continue working.
Sean Strain, who represents Matthews and Mint Hill on the CMS school board, has urged administrators to have a plan for in-person learning to avoid losing staff to layoffs. Even if CMS. can avoid layoffs, it remains to be seen whether the district can ramp up recruiting fast enough to get students back in classrooms.
School districts have had to budget blindly given the inability of the governor and state legislators to agree on a budget. That may change with November elections. There’s no telling how remote learning could affect the budget requests to each county.
Union County is going to have to break bread with the UCPS school board after shooting down the district’s 2020 bond request. It will be interesting to see how receptive Mecklenburg County will be to CMS’s spring budget request.
CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston enters the second year of a three-year contract. Every decision he makes is being heavily scrutinized. Two school board members expressed disappointment Aug. 11 about the lack of a staffing update.
The state logged 7,251 home schools in Mecklenburg County and 3,371 home schools in Union County during 2019-20. Those numbers could accelerate this year as parents with the means seek more stability with education.
Two at-large seats are up for grabs in the Union County school board race. Incumbent Todd Price, of Monroe, faces Waxhaw challengers Claudia Sandoval and Sarah May. Christina Helms, of Monroe, will leave the board.
The need for social distancing may require districts to look at school construction through a different lens, especially if it appears COVID-19 has real staying power. Do we abandon traditional buildings for big-boxes with movable walls?