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Columbus Teachers Union Leader Wants Proof Of COVID Vaccines, More Testing When Schools Open

A sign outside Clinton Elementary School reads "All CCS Schools Closed 3/16 to 5/1 - Wash your hands!"
Ryan Hitchcock

As the Columbus City Schools prepare to open for fall classes next week, the union representing teachers and other employees wants more attention on safety from COVID-19.

"For us there is a sense of urgency especially with school beginning soon,” said President of the Columbus Education Association John Coneglio. “So, we want to make sure we have plans in place just in case something happens."

The Columbus City Schools District is requiring masks for all students, teachers and staff members when classes start August 26. Coneglio said the union is calling for proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all school employees.

"I think what's best for the overall membership, our students, our families is to try to make sure that we're as safe as possible and we're making sure that these simple steps are put into play,” Coneglio said.

One union member did contract COVID-19 and died over the summer, Coneglio said. However it’s not clear if that person was infected in a classroom.

The district still has 16 schools that lack central air conditioning. Coneglio said he’s concerned about proper ventilation to alleviate hot classrooms with students and teachers wearing masks.

Congelio said the union is hoping to reestablish an agreement with the district on what the learning plans will be if there are widespread COVID-19 infections. Full FDA approval of the vaccines will be another step forward in keeping classrooms safe, he said.

"When it's FDA approved, we would hope they would come to us and work out something that is a plan to make sure we keep everybody healthy and safe, and I think vaccinations are an important part of it,” Coneglio said.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.