COLUMBUS (WJW) — On March 1, most Ohio schools that have been doing virtual learning will make the transition back to the classroom.
“We’re going to have to do all we can to support the needs of students whose learning has been really significantly disrupted over the last year,” said Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro.
“We are very happy that K-12 school employees have been included as a priority for vaccination,” said DiMauro.
Still, he says there is still a lot of apprehension from those who aren’t fully vaccinated yet for both the health of their loved ones and unvaccinated students.
DiMauro says districts face the challenge of meeting the CDC’s safety guidelines including masks and social distancing.
“Districts that have newer facilities tend to have better ventilation systems for example, districts that have newer facilities may have an easier time spacing students out to meet that 6-feet standard and providing that kind of support,” he said.
DiMauro says they are also worried about variants: “School spread is still a concern; it is not as bad as maybe a lot of people feared back at the beginning of the school year, but it is a concern, and it is something that we need to be paying attention to.”
DiMauro says they are advising members to get the vaccine if they are medically able, work with their districts to ensure there is CDC compliance and to reach out if they need accommodations like those provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We’re providing the support for them to get those accommodations that they need,” he said.
Some of the OEA’s members will return on Monday to in-person learning but DiMauro says the vast majority have already been back or in a hybrid model.
On Thursday, the governor made note of the 10 districts that aren’t making his deadline. “Our goal of getting everybody back in March 1 is not going to be fully completed but we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress.”
That includes Cleveland and Akron that announced last week they would start phasing in 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,” said CMSD CEO Eric Gordon on Thursday.
Akron School Board President Dr. N.J. Akbar spoke Monday on the return.
“We have not let any political forces whatsoever, you know, determine our decisions, we have decided our decisions based off our own board’s comfort level, the data that we receive from health officials and what makes the most sense as far as safety,” Akbar said.
The governor said they will continue working with the schools that can’t meet the deadline. DiMauro says he’s encouraged by the governor’s flexibility.
“That there is a willingness to work with those districts to make sure that they get what they need,” he said.
The OEA is pushing lawmakers to help districts with federal and state aid to cover costs like COVID-19 safety measures.
They are also continuing to advocate for a fair state funding plan at the state level to address what they say are significant inequities that COVID has amplified.