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CMSD Pushing Return To In-Person Learning Back To March 8

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) CEO Eric Gordon announced the in-person hybrid model would start phasing in the week of March 8. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
CMSD school bus along street

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) will push back its school re-opening timeline by one week, bringing students back to the classroom for hybrid, in-person learning starting March 8. 

CMSD CEO Eric Gordon contacted families Thursday with the update that all students will stay in remote learning through the week of March 1. In his message, Gordon said the delay was necessary to make sure things are in place to ensure a safe and smooth transition.

“This one-week delay will enable us to ensure that each family has received their children’s back-to-school mailers and has had the opportunity to opt out of hybrid learning if they wish,” Gordon said in the email. “It will also allow school and District staff to better plan for necessary adjustments to classroom and staff assignments, transportation schedules, in-school meal planning, staff professional development and classroom readiness.”

The new timeline has the first round of students returning to school the week of March 8, a week after the deadline set by Gov. Mike DeWine as a condition of providing the coronavirus vaccine to school staff members. Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade will return the week of March 15. All other students who opt to return will begin the week of March 22, a week before spring break.  

“In this way, when our students and educators return from spring break, CMSD will operate in a full hybrid learning model for both in-person and remote learners for the full fourth quarter of the school year,” Gordon added in the email to families.

The district will still rely on a hybrid model, with students alternating in-person and remote learning throughout the week to limit the number of people in buildings at one time.

DeWine called out CMSD in a hastily called Feb. 12 press conference for not having a plan to return to in-person learning by March 1. In order to continue receiving vaccines for teachers, DeWine said at the time, districts would have to plan a March 1 return.

CMSD then came out with a plan to bring the first round of students back on March 1, starting with students with learning disabilities and some off-track seniors, followed by, including English learners, off-track ninth and 12th graders and the pre-kindergarten through second graders on March 8, with all students back in classrooms by March 15 on a hybrid schedule.

But Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski said the March 1 goal was “optimistic.”

Though Gordon said CMSD has outfitted buildings with signage, improved ventilation and installed safety precautions such as Plexiglas barriers, the teachers’ union still wants to see more mitigation measures in place to ensure compliance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obrenski said the union’s safety concerns include improved ventilation in each classroom, personal protective equipment and handwashing and sanitization stations.

Akron Public Schools, another district that was a target of DeWine’s ire, will also delay the return to in-person classes until March 8.

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”