COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The superintendent of Columbus City Schools said Wednesday afternoon that the district intends to keep using in-person learning despite a request from the teachers’ union to move to remote learning for two weeks.
Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon and the district’s medical consultant, Dr. Sara Bode, said that COVID-19 mitigation strategies are working and that the best place for the students to be is in the classroom, not on a computer.
“In-person learning is the best model for our students,” Dixon said during a media briefing.
Since the end of winter break, a handful of Columbus schools have switched to remote learning because of staffing shortages related to COVID-19 infections. This week, a group of teachers requested that the entire district move to remote learning for two weeks.
“It’s basically calling for a two-week pause period,” Columbus Education Association President John Coneglio said.
The teachers’ union, which represents over 4,200 educators in the district, submitted its request through a public letter signed by over 2,800 members.
As of Wednesday afternoon the district’s communications department had been sent a link to the letter but Dr. Dixon had not received a physical copy, according to Dr. Dixon.
“Everyone is doing their part to ensure we can bring staff and students back in safely,” said Dr. Dixon. “We want our students in class as much as possible because that is the best and safest place for them to learn.”
Dr. Dixon says the medical experts working with CCS have advised them to keep kids learning in person as long as there is enough staff. Those decisions are being made on a school by school basis. There is no set number or threshold of number of staff absences that determines a school needs to close, according to Dr. Dixon.
“The district appreciates the work of all our employees throughout the pandemic, the willingness to be flexible to serve our students, we are committed to in person learning as much as possible,” said Dr. Dixon.
A CCS teacher who wants to remain anonymous out of fear a retaliation says going remote for two weeks would benefit families, students, and staff. She emphasizes the request is for a two-week remote period.
“Kids definitely learn best when they’re in school and when their teachers are in school. However, this is not normal,” she said. “The teachers don’t want to be out of school, we want to be in school with our kids. But this deciding the night before for the next day for families is just not ok.”
The teacher also argues more students would be able to learn over the two-week period if the move was made to remote. She says that is because teachers who aren’t symptomatic, but need to be home, could still teach and students who aren’t symptomatic but need to be home, based on guidelines, would still be able to learn.
During Wednesday’s press conference Dr. Dixon said several times she is committed to in-person as much as possible. Since coming back from winter break, some schools each day have had to go remote due to a high number of staff absences.
“We are committed to in-person learning, we’re committed to making sure we have all our necessary PPE, our mitigation strategies are in place, we’re following the direction of our medical experts,” said Dr. Dixon.
“In a perfect world the medical experts are correct. But no one has walked into a school and seen what’s actually happening,” said the teacher. “If all of those mitigation strategies were actually being followed to a T, absolutely, it would be better in the schools, but they’re not.”