Eight teachers’ unions throughout the state are pushing Gov. Mike DeWine to rethink his timeline for school reopening and vaccine distribution.
In a joint statement distributed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers and signed by the presidents of the unions in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, the leaders expressed disappointment with DeWine’s plan, saying his administration is using the vaccine “as a bargaining chip.”
“While we expect there will be no consequences for schools that fail to meet this commitment, that doesn’t mean the Governor isn’t harming communities with this action,” the statement reads. “Parents across the state now have unrealistic expectations for a March 1 reopening that simply will not be possible in many school districts.”
The statement is in response of recent statements from DeWine on early-stage plans to reopen schools. While vaccinations for K-12 personnel is set to begin February 1, the governor’s administration sent a survey to school districts asking if they would be willing to agree to reopen schools by March 1, thus opening the door to vaccination.
At his Thursday’s press conference, the governor cited data from the Ohio Department of Education showing that 42.5% of students in the state are currently in-person five days a week.
About one-third of students are still learning through a hybrid in-person/remote model, and nearly 24% of students are still fully remote.
DeWine has said one of the main goals in overcoming the pandemic is the return to in-person instruction, and said 96% of school districts agreed to the March 1 date in the survey.
But education associations and advocates have said the agreement comes because school districts want the vaccine, and know distribution of doses to their schools depends on their agreement to the pre-requisite.
“Governor DeWine should make good on his pledge to prioritize pre-K to 12 school employees, and he should do so without any coerced preconditions,” the joint statement by the teachers unions stated.
The statement matches past statements made, particular by the OFT, in support of a reopening plan, but not of a plan that creates conditions for distribution of the vaccine.
The union presidents acknowledged in the statement that remote education “can never fully replace the experience of in-person learning,” but disagreed with a “rush to reopen.”