Cleveland Teachers Union votes to continue remote instruction next week, citing COVID concerns

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) has voted to continue remote instruction next week.

According to a press release from the CTU, more than 500 member-leaders met Thursday night and voted “to instruct their membership to continue remote instruction” on Monday, March 8, citing health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus.

The vote was reportedly in response to direction from Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon mandating that all teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service providers return to their schools on Monday and teach remotely from the classroom.

CTU says no students are scheduled to return to in-person instruction on Monday and will continue to learn virtually, as they have since September.

“The members of the Cleveland Teachers Union are eager to come back to the classroom to serve their students in person, but not until we can ensure a safe and orderly return,” CTU President Shari Obrenski said in a press release. “We need proven safeguards, like personal protective equipment, distancing, and ventilation, but the District has failed to address our concerns and to provide documentation we have requested.”

The union claims that Gordon “bowed to pressure” from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and “tossed out” the reopening plan that CTU and district officials were working together to put in place. The union says they were working to implement CDC-recommended safety measures in effort to reopen safely.

CTU released a statement reading in part,

The Governor’s arbitrary deadline for school reopening has created an unreasonable and forced timeline that makes a safe and orderly transition from remote to hybrid impossible. The current timeline for reopening school does not reflect the shared commitment of the CTU and CMSD to a safe and orderly reopening for staff and students …

On Monday, our teachers; paraprofessionals, and related service providers will work to educate and serve our students and our families as we have all school year.

Obrenski says they are advocating for a “well-planned, science-based reopening plan with safety mitigations in place.” Adding that the current reopening model was a “rush job is fueled by political expediency, not sound science.”

CMSD issued the following statement to FOX 8 in response to the CTU’s vote:

It is the district’s intent to begin our transition to hybrid learning beginning Monday, March 8th as planned. We remain in discussion with the leadership of the Cleveland Teachers Union regarding their concerns.

On March 1, most Ohio schools that had been doing virtual learning made the transition back to the classroom. The date was set by DeWine for schools that chose to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to staff. 

CMSD announced last week they would start the phased-in return to in-person learning on March 8.

“We briefed all of them on the logistics challenges and why we felt we needed this delay. Certainly, I’m not trying to be contrary with the governor but I have to do what’s right for our kids and our community,” Gordon said last week.

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