Cleveland Teachers Union, CMSD at odds regarding timeline to return to school buildings


CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Teachers Union voted to continue remote learning instruction for Cleveland Metropolitan School District students despite the district announcement hybrid classes would begin for some students Monday.

More than 500 member-leaders reached the decision Thursday. Shari Obrenski, President of the union stated they want to serve students in person but not until they ccan ensure a safe and orderly return.

Obrenski said the district bowed to pressure from Gov. DeWine to reopen tossing out a reopening plan they worked with the district to accomplish citing an unreasonable timeline that makes the transition from remote to hybrid learning “impossible.”

“Cleveland Schools have done a very good job preparing to have a safe environment for teachers and for students. I think Eric has done a phenomenal job and his team,” said Gov. DeWine, traveling in East Cleveland Friday. “I’m optimistic that this will get worked out. It’s so very important for young people, for students, for Cleveland to be able to go back into class.”

CTU formed building safety teams this week to ensure safety items the district said should be in place are in fact at locations across the district. Obrenski stated personal protective equipment and ventilation systems remains a concern. 

“We want all of our students back in school as well as our educators…we just want to make sure that when we go back that their children are safe and that their families are safe,” Obrenski said.

The union is working with an environmental health expert who has met with school district members about the issue. Obrenski said the union requested documents regarding individual classroom reading of airflow but has not obtained those documents.

A CMSD spokesperson said the district purchased 500 air purifiers at a cost of nearly $300,000 dollars.

CMSD previously delayed the start of hybrid learning by one week in order to ensure a smooth transition. Some special needs students will begin a phased return beginning the week of March 8. On March 15 additional students will return, however, the majority of students in the district are in Phase 3, scheduled to begin in-person hybrid learning the week of March 22.

“May take a few more extra days to get there but we will get there and we will get there soon,” Obrenski said.

A spokesperson for the CMSD said buildings are safe and ready for learning next week and have been equipped with PPE for classrooms, enhanced sanitizing procedures for buildings, the installation of quarantine centers for students and adults displaying COVID-19 like symptoms at school, along with reconfiguring classes to meet social distancing requirements.

CMSD released the following statement about their plan to begin transitioning to hybrid learning Monday: “The District believes teachers and other professionals have an ethical responsibility to return to their classrooms on Monday; however, we will not lock teachers out of their digital classrooms.  While doing so may be an effective negotiating tactic to place pressure on teachers and the Cleveland Teachers Union, it would also be done at the expense of our students, and that is something the District will not do.”

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