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CMS reports rise in student and staff COVID-19 cases as classes resume

 Students file out of South Mecklenburg High School during a recent dismissal.
Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE
Students file out of South Mecklenburg High School during a recent dismissal.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported Monday that 1,249 students and 615 staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week after the return from winter break.

That's a small fraction of both groups, in a district with about 138,000 students and almost 19,000 employees. But the numbers are far higher than CMS was seeing before everyone returned from the holidays amid an outbreak of the omicron variant.

For instance, during the final week of first semester CMS reported just over 200 student cases, about one-sixth of the latest number. The latest tally shows almost 2,000 students in quarantine, compared with about 400 the week before the holiday. That's despite the fact that North Carolina recently reduced the time students and staff have to spend in quarantine, part of an effort to keep in-person classes functioning.

For the week of Nov. 13-19, the last full week for which archived staff data is available, CMS reported 24 employees testing positive. This week's 615 staff cases is a record, with almost 700 employees quarantined (the district didn't report quarantines until a recent dashboard revision).

In his weekly report to the board Friday, Superintendent Earnest Winston said CMS is struggling to fill gaps for teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria staff.

According to the CMS dashboard, most of the cases appear to stem from community transmission. Only two schools, Garinger High and Palisades Park Elementary, are listed as clusters, which means local health officials believe the virus spread to at least five people at school. They account for a combined 13 student cases and two staff cases.

Many other schools have much higher numbers. South Mecklenburg High, for instance, reported 51 student cases and 12 staff cases last week. Other schools with at least 40 cases are Community House Middle, Mallard Creek High, Rea Farms STEAM Academy and Rocky River High.

Additional schools could be designated as clusters as health officials look into last week's cases.

Copyright 2022 WFAE

Ann Doss Helms covers education for WFAE. She was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer for 32 years, including 16 years on the education beat. She has repeatedly won first place in education reporting from the North Carolina Press Association and won the 2015 Associated Press Senator Sam Open Government Award for reporting on charter school salaries.