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Teachers union wants Columbus City Schools to go remote for 2 weeks

Columbus Education Association President John Coneglio said the two weeks would allow time to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Education Association is asking its members to sign a letter that requests Columbus City Schools switch to remote learning for two weeks in an attempt to fix staffing issues caused by COVID-19.

Since Columbus schools resumed classes on Jan. 3 after winter break, some schools were forced to temporarily transition to remote learning due to staffing shortages. At its peak last week, 24 schools in the district were remote.

On Friday, the district closed completely due to a high number of absences among the transportation staff.

Typically, the district has released which schools will be learning remotely for the next day late in the early evening, with additional schools being added later in the night or early morning.

CEA president John Coneglio said this is causing teachers and staff a great amount of stress and anxiety because they don't know which learning model they are going to be teaching under on any given day.

“We know we keep asking the district what are the metrics and how is it determined whether schools are closed. And they can’t tell us what they use or how they close schools. There’s no metrics or data that they will share with us in how they determine whether or not a school closes,” Coneglio said.

When schools are in person, Coneglio said the district is still seeing staffing shortages because of COVID-19 and there aren’t enough substitute teachers to make up for the absences.

"Let's pause, fix some problems and the district can provide some clarity to teachers on what the metrics are and we can go from there," Coneglio said.

The district said whether or not they keep a school building open depends on the number of absences and the types of absences, which are looked at starting in the afternoon and continuing into the evening and early morning hours.

"This process has allowed us to safely have as many students as possible in their schools for in-person learning," a CCS spokesperson told 10TV.

"We will continue to rely on the guidance of public health experts, who have advised us that our mitigation efforts are working," the district said in a statement. Those mitigation efforts include masking, hand washing and social distancing.

10TV asked the Superintendent about the process for deciding whether a school is learning remotely at a school board meeting last week. 

“It's really case-by-case. We're looking at the number of students and the number of staff members that are needed and so it's really case-by-case, there's no magic number, we just really are looking at ‘can we have a continuity of education in our buildings in person?’” said Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon.

On top of going back and forth from in-person to remote learning, Coneglio said Parsons Elementary School, some buildings at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center and a wing of the Hamilton STEM Academy that don't have heat.

Coneglio does not anticipate needing more than two weeks to get classes back to normal.

"I'm confident that a solid two weeks would get us far enough away from the holidays. Hopefully, everybody does the right thing and stays home and distanced, wearing masks, getting vaccinated and all those things," Coneglio said.

On Monday, four districts learned remotely due to staffing shortages.

The teachers union has until Wednesday to sign the letter.

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