Columbus schools approve backup plan in case teachers strike

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Columbus City Schools voted on Tuesday to move forward with a backup plan to staff classrooms if teachers decide to go on strike.

School board members approved an agreement for pre-strike planning services that will cost up to $50,000. The move gives the district a staffing alternative or a backup plan if teachers strike.

It’s a move that Columbus teachers are against.

Dozens of teachers all wearing red showed up by the dozens to the Columbus City School board meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns about alternative staffing.

“To negotiate resources and put their resources toward teachers and educators and not towards individuals that could potentially hurt our students,” said Regina Fuentes, CEA.

It was standing room only at the board meeting as board members voted to approve the letter of agreement for Huffmaster Crisis Response, which is a company that will provide pre-strike contingency planning services.

Columbus City Schools Board President Gary Baker said board members approved the agreement to make ensure classrooms are staffed if teachers go on strike.

“It is our duty to be prepared for what could happen, hopefully, it doesn’t happen,” board president, Gary Baker said.

But before board members voted, several teachers voiced their concerns about the agreement.

Teachers said the money the district agreed to spend on alternative staffing should go elsewhere.

“They need to use those resources to support teachers, support their students and make sure that the safety of students comes first,” Fuentes said.

A woman who attended the meeting said CCS students deserve better.

“They deserve professional educators, CCS students deserve to keep their well-trained school phycologists like me,” a woman said.

The school board is still in contract negotiations with the Columbus Education Association that impacts at least 4,000 teachers and the CEA authorized a ten-day notice if they were to go on strike.

School board members said the staffing alternative serves as a backup plan if a teacher strike were to happen.

“We are bargaining on the best interest of our students first and foremost and want to be proactive and thoughtful and be sure our children have somewhere to be in a classroom learning in a safe, warm, dry environment,” board vice president, Michael Cole said.

Columbus teachers are two months away from the end of their current contract, which ends in August.

They are demanding better pay, smaller classroom sizes and better working conditions.

“Safety and security of students and staff continues to be a top priority for the board,” Baker said.

The meeting on Tuesday was the last school board meeting until August.

Negotiations resume on Thursday with the teacher’s union.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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