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AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Akron Public Schools and Cleveland Metropolitan School District were both personally called out by Governor DeWine on Friday night for delaying their return to in-person learning.

DeWine said during a press conference that the sole reason the state is prioritizing vaccinations for school employees is so students can get back in the classroom by March 1.

He said both districts previously agreed to that plan. However, this week that changed.

“In Cleveland, we are in the midst of vaccinating teachers and personnel in Cleveland City Schools. I asked if we should stop the vaccinations. Their CEO has made a commitment to me to do everything in his power to get the kids back in class March 1,” said Gov. DeWine.

Meanwhile, the superintendent of Akron Public Schools said they were now considering a March 15 return date. DeWine said that’s unacceptable, especially since everyone in the district has already been vaccinated.

He said the districts made a commitment to that deadline and he expects them to honor that.

“It’s important for our kids to get back in the classroom when their parents are ready to send them back. Kids are falling behind. There are social and mental health consequences. That’s why we prioritized vaccines for schools. Otherwise, they’d go to a more vulnerable group,” he said.

Akron Public Schools issued the following statement to FOX 8:

“Safety has been and always will be our priority for students, employees, and the community at large.  Akron Public Schools has had better than 2,000 students back in our school buildings since February 1. That is a hybrid model that commenced one month ahead of the governor’s schedule.  It is our belief that this is in compliance with the commitment made.

We completely understand the governor’s frustration over this situation.  This has always been about the kids, as he said.  Akron Public Schools has been working for nearly a year with the sole mission of returning children to school AND keeping them and our teachers safe. We have worked closely, and quite well with state and local public health experts.” 

David W. James, Ed.D. Superintendent, Akron Public Schools

N.J. Akbar, Ph.D., Akron Board of Education President issued a statement reading, 

“Safety is our highest priority and has been the driving factor in our decisions.  The Board stands in full support of our district’s phased in reopening plan and schedule which began with Remote Plus, our hybrid option starting February 1st.  We were asked to have a hybrid or in-person option by March 1st and we complied with that agreement.  Promise kept.”

Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon released the following statement to FOX 8 Friday evening:

As Governor Mike DeWine shared at a press conference this evening, I spoke directly with the Governor about our continued efforts to open CMSD as quickly as we are able to do so, knowing his expectation for all Ohio districts is March 1.  

At last Tuesday’s Board meeting, I announced my intention to update our students, parents and caregivers, educators, and the entire CMSD community of our reopening plan on next Friday, Feb. 19, and I still plan to do so.  

In the meantime, our preparation to reopen schools has already begun. This morning, we began printing a districtwide mailer that will arrive in all CMSD households the week of Feb. 22 with children’s school and transportation assignments. Additionally, a plan is in place to resume spring sports on Feb. 22, and we have already prepared our school buildings, buses, and classrooms for reopening safely.  

In the meantime, the District made significant progress this week in our effort to vaccinate 7,000 CMSD employees. In the first three days vaccines were available, we vaccinated 2,400 staff.  We expect to have all employees vaccinated with the first of two required doses by next weekend.   

Eric Gordon, CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan School District