Ohio’s frustrated lieutenant governor is strongly urging teachers to return to the classroom after union members voted to wait several more weeks.
The Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) believes the school district leaders bowed to pressure from Governor Mike DeWine to re-open too early, but say they are working together to get everyone safely back in the classroom.
Saturday, FOX 8 spoke to Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who says the school environment is safe and the school district is going back on a promise it made with the state.
“Teachers, in general, are back to work in-person, all across the state. This is just an island in Cleveland where the teachers union has decided not to go back,” said Husted.
Husted says CMSD is breaking a signed, mutually understood agreement. Teachers and staff were moved to the front of the line to get COVID-19 vaccines and in exchange, after a year of virtual learning, the district would return to in-person or hybrid instruction by March 1.
“When you go and have the vast majority of people go get the vaccine and then not hold up your end of the deal, that’s where our administration takes issue with it…because we skipped a lot of people. They took vaccines that could have gone to other, more vulnerable people,” said Husted.
The district’s date to move from virtual to hybrid learning has fluctuated. Most recently, CEO Eric Gordon announced the transition would start Monday, March 8.
But Thursday, the CTU voted to continue remote learning a little longer, citing concerns about building ventilation and available personal protective equipment.
That means the majority of students who chose hybrid learning would not return until March 22.
“It may take a few more extra days to get there, but we will get there and we will get there soon,” said CTU president Shari Obrenski during an interview on Friday.
“The studies are clear, when you wear a mask inside a building, even if the students are not three feet apart, it is safe…but you also have the added armor of this vaccine, the vaccine works,” said the lieutenant governor.
Saturday, the teachers union issued a statement, which reads:
“Members of the Cleveland Teachers will continue to work from home on Monday, March 8 as they have all school year. Students will continue to have regularly scheduled classes and services as they would on any Monday this school year. The leadership of the CTU and the CMSD are working through the weekend to get ready for our eventual transition from fully remote to hybrid learning. We are all eager to welcome students back to our school buildings as soon as the time is right. We have always been and remain committed to working with the district to make the transition to hybrid.”
“We see the evidence that learning and reading is down 25 percent and 33 percent in math and that is exacerbated among minority and poor students…I plead to them, these children need you. We’ve done all we can to protect you. Please go back and help them,” Husted said.
Lt. Gov. Husted says Cleveland is one of about a handful of school districts in the state that did not honor the agreement to return to school by March 1.