COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With the first day of school coming and going with students taking classes remotely, the Columbus City School Board and the teachers’ union met in an attempt to come to a contract agreement.
As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, there was no word on what, if anything, the negotiation session accomplished.
As the Columbus teachers’ strike continued for its third day Wednesday, the district conducted classes online using substitute teachers, and many community agencies opened their doors as a place for students to go as schools remained closed. But several parents indicated they wouldn’t let their students attend, some choosing solidarity with the 4,500-member teachers union.
“It is hard because I want to be in school,” Columbus Education Association spokesperson Regina Fuentes said Wednesday afternoon. “Seeing the kids that I’ve had before and having them run up and say, ‘Hey, Ms. Fuentes!” those are the moments that I am not getting to have today.”
The dueling parties are meeting to continue contract negotiations, the first bargaining session since the CEA voted to strike. The meeting began at 1 p.m. at an undisclosed location.
If all goes as planned, Fuentes said CCS and the CEA will come out of today’s session with a partnership, but the union will not back down until their safety needs are met.
“The biggest hope is that they have listened to the community. They have heard what the parents want, what the students want and that is to have safe, fully resourced, well-maintained schools in every neighborhood. Bottom line,” Fuentes said.
Like Fuentes, CCS Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon said she is confident that both the board and union can reach an agreement.
“Our families want their students to be back in the classroom, as do I … but listening and making sure that we understand the concerns are on both sides is very important, so that resolution we come to, is something that both sides agree upon,” Dixon said.
Fuentes said they also want to limit class sizes and ensure all schools have PE and art teachers.
She said pay is always a part of negotiations but not the union’s top priority at this time.
“So we are doing this out of pure heart,” Fuentes said. “Our motivation today is to get this done and hopefully the board’s motivation is to get this done as well.”
The district will be providing several locations where students can grab meals for as long as the union remains on strike.
Picketing Tuesday at one school was disrupted by what police said was BB gun fire. Some picketers were hit, but no serious injuries were reported.
Board President Jennifer Adair spoke with NBC4 about the strike on Tuesday.
And Fuentes spoke to NBC4 on Monday.