CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston called on the community Jan. 11 to step up to serve as substitutes as the district experiences absences among teachers and other staff due to COVID-19.
Winston thanked employees for their work in helping maintain in-person learning,but he expressed to the school board and the public that his staff is “stretched extremely thin.”
“With increases in staff absences, which are driven by the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, we may soon face some difficult decisions,” Winston said. “It is nearly inevitable that teaching and learning will be impacted more significantly should the virus remain on its current trajectory.”
He pointed to data from Jan. 3 to 9 that showed CMS had 1,249 students who tested positive for COVID-19 and an additional 1,982 students in quarantine. The district had 615 confirmed staff cases and 689 employees in quarantine.
In recent days, CMS has averaged more than 1,000 teacher absences. Substitutes took on less than 50% of those vacancies, which requires teachers and other staff members covering classes during planning time.
In some cases, central office staff filled in for absent t4eachers.
Winston acknowledged that students are not receiving the full level of support the district wants to provide, considering classrooms are staffed with people who are not content experts like teachers.
As far as transportation, CMS has had between 120 and 145 bus drivers absent or on approved leave. CMS has used substitute drivers, double runs and combined routes to fill in the gaps, but families are seeing delays of up to 45 minutes.
“Our capacity to cover transportation routes is approaching the maximum,” Winston said. “Any upturn in driver absences will impact our ability to transport students to and from school as we continue to move forward.”
Winston also pointed to staffing challenges in the child nutrition and exceptional children departments as well as the after school enrichment program.