Education

CMS goes back to school today. Here’s what you need to know.

New crisis alert system goes into effect this school year

New safety measures are in place for the new CMS school year.
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New safety measures are in place for the new CMS school year.

The first day of the 2019-2020 school year for students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will also mark the beginning of new leadership in the district. For new superintendent Earnest Winston, a long-time CMS employee, it will be his first back-to-school day in the top job.

Since stepping in as superintendent, Winston has emphasized that the district will move forward on its goals without disruption. In particular, Winston has said the district would continue its focus on equity across its initiatives.

“I want the community to know that their schools and their district are focused on these efforts not just in words, but through our actions as educators,” Winston said.

What’s new this year

In the lead-up to the new school year, CMS has rolled out changes and enhancements to its safety practices, transportation and the curriculum.

CMS will begin the first day of school with 28 new propane-powered buses, which are designed to run with fewer emissions. The new additions will make CMS the school system with the most propane buses in the state, the district said.

The district also will expand its random weapons screenings to middle and K-8 schools. The screenings, which started after the fatal shooting at Butler High School, are designed to deter students from bringing weapons to schools. Students in randomly selected classrooms and schools are wanded or walk through portable metal detectors while their bags are searched.

Earnest Winston is CMS' acting superintendent after the board suspended Clayton Wilcox.

CMS high schools are now equipped with an alert system that involves a panic card given to all staff members. The system of beacon lights and verbal alarms is triggered when a staff member presses the panic card, which also notifies the central office and includes the location of the staff member. The alert can only be turned off by someone in the central office, after someone can go to the room to confirm there is no ongoing emergency.

Students in certain grade levels will begin using a new open-access curriculum plan, which are free and open to the public. The new plans, from EL Education for English language arts and Open Up Resources for math, can be accessed by parents, tutors and community partners who work with CMS students. Students in kindergarten through third grade, as well as sixth grade, will use the new ELA curriculum, while students in eighth grade will use the new math curriculum.

Teacher openings

As of Wednesday, CMS had 80 teaching positions to fill, though the district warned that the number could change by the day as resignations and promotions take effect. Rob Ellyson, executive director of talent acquisition, said that 99% of teaching positions were filled or in the last stages of pre-hiring onboarding.

The district began recruiting much earlier this year to fill as many openings as possible before the start of school, Ellyson said, with the hiring spree kicking off in early March.

Bus driver vacancies

There are currently 15 bus driver vacancies that need to be filled. Since May, CMS has hired 50 bus drivers, and bus driver classes are held monthly.

Problems? Here’s what to do.

Parents can track the location of their student’s bus via the Here Comes the Bus app, and can contact the transportation call center at 980-343-6715.

Superintendent Earnest Winston hopes to have all CMS employees fingerprinted in the next few weeks.

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