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Columbus City Schools Superintendent Responds To Teacher's Union

New Columbus Schools superintendent Talisa Dixon talks to students at Trevitt Elementary in King-Lincoln.
Olivia Miltner

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon addressed a number of COVID-19 safety requests from the district's teacher's union.

The Columbus Education Association released a statement, asking the district to strengthen its COVID-19 safety measures.

Currently, the district requires masks for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status in all schools and administrative sites. They will also ban the use of water fountains and limit school visitors to parents, guardians and the district's student support partners. They are also required to mask up.

However, the teacher's union is requesting to take it a step higher — they want proof of COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for all employees. They also called on the district to ensure that all school buildings have proper ventilation for COVID-19 and heat-related reasons.

Dixon said Wednesday on WOSU'sAll Sides with Ann Fisher that while the district cannot legally require vaccinations, they still strongly encourage them. She added they recognize there are some buildings that won't be air-conditioned, but the district will try to supply more fans and find ways to improve airflow.

"And we're going to continue to make sure that we have those strategies in place so that teachers can be comfortable and teach," Dixon said. "No one wants to teach in a hot building, nor do students want to learn in a hot building."

Another request from the union was the extension of the district's 2020-2021 School Year Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the union. The memorandum gave teachers a plan for moving between different types of learning when students or teachers had to quarantine.

Dixon said the district's negotiations team is working to see which parts of the memorandum they are going to extend, but that they will continue to work with the union.

"I applaud the union, they've been wanting to get out in front of this and have that in place, and we will continue to work with them," she said.

Students will begin occupying classrooms starting next week on Aug. 26.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.