COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The superintendent of Columbus City Schools says the district will not meet Governor Mike DeWine’s March 1 deadline to get all students back in the classroom, but not for a lack of trying.
Dr. Talisa Dixon says 24,000 elementary students have returned, but older students will be on a different timetable.
The governor set a March 1 deadline in exchange for giving teachers earlier access to vaccines. Dr. Dixon’s goal is to have the remaining 20,000 students in a hybrid setting by mid-to-late March.
The roadblock is transporting students on a limited number of buses while following CDC guidelines to keep them six feet apart. That’s something Dr. Dixon hopes the governor understands.
“First, I was shocked that they had a press conference on that issue [Friday]. So, I just kind of sat and watched, kind of in awe and then I thought about us,” said Dr. Dixon.
Dixon says she knew Columbus City Schools could not meet that March 1 deadline for at least half of its students.
“He may not be happy because I did not meet that deadline, but I believe he will be understanding of the complexities we have,” said Dr. Dixon.
She cites transportation issues, a shortage of substitute teachers and the need to keep everyone safe.
“When you get off the school bus, there are protocols. On the school bus, protocols, when you get off the bus, in the cafeteria, in the classroom. Our students have to get acclimated to this new environment and in order for us to do that we have to phase that process in slower,” said Dixon.
Slower in a district burdened by urban challenges.
“The community spread of this virus was very different than other places in the county, that includes families that didn’t have access to quality health care. That includes students who didn’t have access to quality health care, students who didn’t have access to technology, families and students who didn’t have access to food on the weekends,” said Dixon. “So we have done more than provide education for our students. We have been, I believe, a center for providing services to our families and our students.”
Dr. Dixon and the governor have different timelines, but the same goal.
“Right now, I want all of my kids back in school. That’s the main thing for me. And how do I do that? I have to do it with others, and we have a different plan. So, if the governor says, ‘Superintendent Dixon, I don’t agree with the plan,’ then I would say to the governor, ‘I hope you provide some grace for us too,'” said Dixon.