by J.D. Davidson
A day after the teachers’ union in Ohio’s largest school district questioned health and safety preparation, the Columbus City Schools announced students would not return to in-person learning until January.
Some students were expected back for orientation this week and in-person classes were expected to begin this month. But, in a letter to parents, Superintendent Talisa Dixon said the overwhelming majority of students will continue remote learning until Jan. 15.
“As has been my common refrain in previous messages, the one certainty we can count on during this pandemic is great uncertainty,” Dixon said in the letter. “Throughout this fall, our challenge has always been how best to achieve our priority of providing an equitable education to all students within the context of the health and safety concerns of a pandemic. It goes without saying, this is not easy.”
On Tuesday, the Columbus Education Association released a survey of more than 3,400 Columbus educators. A quarter of the respondents said many in their buildings were not properly wearing face coverings, and 30% said they were not provided cloth face masks by the district.
Also, 70% said their building did not have the appropriate facilities to promote handwashing for all students, and 71% said they received no training on how to use the disinfectant they received.
“This is an outrageous failure of leadership from our Columbus City Schools Board and Administration,” John Coneglio, Columbus Education Association president, said.
Districts, both public and private, across the state have taken individual approaches to reopening. Many students are back in class full time, while other districts opened the year with a hybrid model that sent students back for two days and continued online learning for three during a week.
On Oct. 13, Franklin County, home to Columbus, was again raised to Level 3 by the Ohio Department of Health.
“This survey confirms our worst fears based on the barrage of health and safety concerns we’ve received,” Jackie Broderick Patton, CEA senior faculty representative for school nurses, said. “We’ve negotiated for strict COVID-19 protocols for our members and our students, and they are being ignored.”
Dixon told parents students at two of the district’s career and technical schools, as well as special education students with specific complex needs, will return in November as part of a blended learning model.
“As a leader, I know there are factors that I can and cannot control,” Dixon said. “I cannot put a stop to this pandemic, but I can help mitigate the spread without our community by making decisions that in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, their families and our staff.”
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is regional editor for The Center Square.