Teachers weigh in on safety concerns ahead of Ohio school buildings reopening

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ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW) – Many educators are grappling with returning to the classroom when school doors open, some saying they don’t want to be part of a school experiment as coronavirus cases increase in Ohio.

“All of this is something none of us have ever had to deal with before, so it is a bit of an experiment,” said Koneake Lawrence.

This upcoming school year would mark 13 years as a teacher for Lawrence, a middle school science teacher. Only this year she says so much is on the line.

“I do have an older son who lives with us and he takes a medication that lowers his immune system so we are really careful with him,” she said. “My husband has asthma and my younger son also has asthma.”

Carrie Baker of Middleburg Heights, a high school biology teacher who says she’s taught more than 25 years, believes teaching classes in person could put her health at risk.

“I’ve been living with MS for over 25 years and multiple sclerosis gives me a compromised immune system so I’m already at a deficit,” she explained. “Because MS is such a unpredictable condition it could render me hospitalized. It’s possible I could lose my ability to walk ever again being hospitalized could be something that could be the end of my life I don’t know.”

It’s the type of uncertainty Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association is trying to remedy. The organization represents more than 120,000 educators across Ohio.

“We’ve have been hearing all along that we need to follow health and safety guidance from the CDC,” he said. “…but then you hear from officials from Washington particularity from the president and Secretary of Education who are suggesting that schools need to open and those kinds of parameters are too difficult or too costly.”

DiMauro is advocating for congress to pass the HEROES Act, which would bring federal dollars to local schools, something he says is needed with the increased cost of keeping schools in operation under the circumstances of enhanced cleaning and tighter budgets.

The Ohio Education Association estimates the HEROES Act would bring more than $3 billion dollars in education funding to Ohio.

“I’m scared I don’t want to have to choose between a job I love and my survival,” said Baker.

As the school year inches closer teachers still have many questions remain about safety.

“All of this is something none of us have ever had to deal with before so it is a bit of an experiment, you got to wonder what the cost will be.”

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