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Cleveland Teacher's Union Votes To Stay Remote March 8

The Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) voted to continue with remote learning on March 8, citing concerns over safety.

The decision came Thursday night, after the 500-plus person membership convened virtually.

“This vote is in response to direction from Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Eric Gordon, which mandated that all teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service providers are to return to their assigned worksites on March 8 to teach remotely from their schools. No students are scheduled to report in person on Monday and all classes will continue virtually as they have since September,” a CTU statement said. “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.” 

CTU members are “eager to come back to the classroom,” the statement said. But beyond the vaccine, mitigation strategies need to be in place before educators re-enter the buildings.

“My concern is that we are not fully prepared to do that at this moment. We're getting there, we're close. We're not quite there,” Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obranski, told ideastream Friday morning. “And even when you have the vaccine, that doesn't stop necessarily the spread of COVID, it just means the adults that got the shot are less likely to get sick and die. That’s what the vaccination means. So it doesn't protect our children. It doesn’t protect their families.”

Following the CTU vote, CMSD asserted its commitment to starting the hybrid model as planned.

“It is the district’s intent to begin our transition to hybrid learning beginning Monday, March 8 as planned.  We remain in discussion with the leadership of the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) regarding their concerns,” CMSD said in a statement.

In a tweet, Lt. Governor John Husted criticized the CTU’s vote to continue with remote learning.

“Cleveland school personnel jumped to the front of the line to get vaccines in return for going back to school in-person March 1. Now the union is violating that agreement. If you weren’t going to go back to work then you shouldn’t have taken the vaccine,” Husted said in the tweet.

Obrenski said Husted is entitled to his opinion.

“The March 1 paper, first of all, that was signed by superintendents,” Obrenski said. “Teacher leaders, had absolutely no input into any of that, whatsoever. And we all want to be back in person with students. That is our ultimate goal.”

Gov. Mike DeWine was at a vaccine clinic in East Cleveland Friday morning and was optimistic CMSD and the teachers’ union can get Cleveland students back into school buildings.

“I'm kind of the eternal optimist,” DeWine said. “I think this thing is going to get worked out. I think the Cleveland schools have done a very good job preparing to have a safe environment.

“It's been a year since they've been into class and it's time,” DeWine said “You know, we know a lot more today than we knew at the beginning of this pandemic. One of the things that we know is that… students are wearing masks and teachers are, that they can be safe in a classroom.”

But the governor stopped short of demanding Cleveland teachers return to the classroom Monday as promised by Gordon, in spite of previous statements and frustrations about teachers backing off promises made to return to in person learning after getting vaccinated.

“It's not the Governor's job to get between the teacher's union or any union and management, but what we have tried to do is create a statewide safe environment,” DeWine said.

Obrenski said it is clear to CTU members that CMSD needs more time to create a COVID-safe environment.

“Where we are right now, just this week, we were able to put building safety teams in place in each of the buildings. So, we have the building administrators and the building union leadership, as well as really other important members of that school community, like the custodian and cafeteria worker and the secretary,” Obrenski said. “We have our nurses and there are health aides that are being brought on board to run the wellness clinics, when we get our students back in place. We’re making sure that buildings have what they need and have the policies and procedures in place so that we can get them reopened and get people back inside and they're just not done with that work yet.”

ideastream’s Glenn Forbes contributed to this report.


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