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Latest on CMS reopening: Higher bus driver shortage. County’s COVID-19 caseload grows.

A shortage of bus drivers kept Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from sticking to its reopening timeline for middle schools. A week after that decision, transportation staffing levels declined further.

In its weekly update on coronavirus health and operational metrics, the district reported that 80.9% of bus routes were fully staffed, down from 84% the previous week. That shortage, combined with strict social distancing requirements on school buses, led the district to delay reopening most of its middle schools until 2021. 


Chief school performance officer Kathy Elling said Monday that while some departments such as child nutrition and custodians had large pools of substitutes the district could draw from to maintain operations, the requirements for school bus drivers makes those vacancies harder to fill.

Transportation is a very different situation,” Elling said. “Our drivers require very specific licensure. We have very limited to access to supports when they are on leave.”

In addition to six unfilled positions, 122 bus drivers are on approved leave from work, including 71 on a provision of the coronavirus relief packaged passed earlier this year. Adam Johnson, the district’s executive director of transportation, earlier said it would not be possible to cover those routes without long waits that could disrupt instructional schedules or violating state social distancing requirements for school buses.

Last week, the board voted 6-3 to approve delaying the return of middle school students.

Middle school students were supposed to return to classrooms on Nov. 23. Now, students enrolled in the district’s K-8 schools will come back on Nov. 30. For students attending middle schools with grades 6 through 8, classroom instruction is scheduled to restart Jan. 5.

Middle school classrooms will follow a model similar to that CMS is using for elementary students: Grade levels are split into two groups and rotate between virtual learning and two days per week of in-person learning.


The phased-in plan for bringing CMS students back during the pandemic includes district officials closely-monitoring public health data from Mecklenburg County. The latest figures show worsening spread of COVID-19.

The number of new cases over the past week reached 158.4 per 100,000 people, while the positivity rate ticked up to 7.5%.

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