COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Board of Education passed two important items during its meeting Tuesday which could be important for the start of the school year.
What the first day of school will look like is already up in the air as the district and the teachers’ union are still at odds over a new contract, with a potential strike looming around the corner.
During its meeting, the board approved increasing the district’s Zoom availability and $100 weekly incentives for substitute teachers in the district.
Two parents said what the board passed Tuesday is important, but energy should be focused on negotiations and a deal when it comes to a teachers’ contract.
“As long as substitute teachers worked all scheduled student attendance days in a work week, they will receive an additional $100 as an incentive, “ said Board President Jennifer Adair, describing the substitute teacher incentive.
The incentive and the Zoom seats could come into play at the beginning of the school year: If no agreement is made on a teacher’s contract, the district has said the school year will begin with remote learning and substitutes.
“What are we doing? Why is that something now that’s getting brought up? That’s not a solve to any of this,” said parent Hannah Jew.
Parent Angie Redmond added, “I feel like it’s solving the wrong problem; I feel like it’s kind of a Band-Aid solution.”
Parents said they would like efforts right now to be focused on a teachers’ contract.
Redmond wants to see her daughter in the classroom, not in the digital world.
“I know there has to be contingency plans, but it feels to me like this is an answer in just saying no,” she said. “It just leaves no room for further conversation.”
The substitute teacher incentive is active for the first six weeks of the school year if substitutes work all scheduled student attendance days.
A district spokesperson said this is part of general, ongoing recruitment efforts.
The board also approved funding to increase the district’s Zoom licensing to allow for more 500- and 1,000-seat Zoom rooms.
“It’s another topic that I think, Yeah is it probably relevant to discuss? Sure. Is it maybe necessary to have those licenses and open it up in case there is another emergency? Sure, maybe, but why are we talking about the right now?” Jew said.
She added she remains hopeful some agreement will be made.
“I want to be optimistic,” Jew said. “I want my kid to start on time, so I’m not completely giving up hope, but at the same time, I’ll be completely unsurprised if a resolution has not been reached at this next meeting.”
The board and the union are scheduled to meet for negotiations Thursday. It is the last negotiation session scheduled. A full CEA membership meeting is scheduled for Sunday.