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Columbus school board meets for four hours as possible teachers' strike approaches

Columbus Board of Education building on April 15, 2020.
David Holm

Members of the Columbus Board of Education met behind closed doors in a special meeting Monday night that lasted nearly four hours. It was the board's first meeting since teachers voted last week to allow for a possible teachers' strike.

None of the school board members present were willing to say anything about what was discussed at the end of the meeting, nearly all of which was spent in executive session.

A federal mediator has asked the Columbus Board of Education and the Columbus Education Association to return to the bargaining table Wednesday.

In an email, Columbus City Schools spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant said that while the board remains "focused on starting school with our teachers on August 24, we are prepared for alternate outcomes."

Any union strike could start as early as August 22, the first day most teachers return to work.

The Columbus Education Association’s legislative assembly voted unanimously last week to issue a 10-day notice of their intent to strike.

Sticking points in negotiations include teacher pay, class sizes and the condition of some buildings. Several buildings still lack air conditioning, although the district is using federal pandemic relief money to renovate HVAC systems.

The vote for the intent to strike followed several days of public sparing with the school board, including the union criticizing the board for what the board called its final contract offer, and the board filing an unfair labor complaint with the state's Employment Relations Board.

Board members claim the union has spread misinformation about the contract offer as it pertains to class size, recruiting and retaining employees, and the condition of some buildings' HVAC systems. The union denies ever spreading misinformation.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.