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Cleveland Public School Teachers Will Return to Classrooms Wednesday

empty classroom
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District's special needs students will begin in-person learning Friday as part of the Phase 1 transition to hybrid learning.

Updated: 1:15 p.m., Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Cleveland Metropolitan School District teachers will head back to their classrooms starting Wednesday, according to a joint statement from CMSD and the Cleveland Teacher’s Union.

District CEO Eric Gordon said the district was able to address remaining pandemic-related health and safety concerns raised by the CTU about returning to in-person teaching.

“Our buildings are safe, and the District has taken every precaution possible to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Gordon in the statement. “We are all looking forward to welcoming back students whose families have chosen a return to in-person instruction.”  

Late last week, the union voted to postpone a return to school, citing issues with ventilation in the buildings and other COVID-related mitigation protocols. Teachers and staff continued to teach remotely Monday despite the district announcing it was moving forward with the hybrid model.    

CTU President Shari Obrenski said sufficient and important progress was made “over the weekend” to ensure the buildings were safe for staff and students and addressing the union’s specific concerns.

“For example, we found through our building safety teams in their walk-throughs that in one building, they had 14 soap dispensers that were sitting in the building, but they weren't installed,” Obrenski told ideastream Tuesday. “So, those children can't use soap from a dispenser that isn't in their bathroom.”

The union membership is now confident that safety issues were resolved, she said, and that an effective communications protocol has been established to quickly respond to more COVID-related needs as they pop up.

“It's making sure that I can look my members in the face and say, ‘I believe these buildings are safe for you to return,’ and for those members, in turn, to be able to look their students and their students' families in the face and say, ‘These buildings are safe to return and I can work to keep our kids safe all day long,’” Obrenski said. “Our teachers and other educators look at our students as our kids. We feel responsible for them. And if we can't keep them safe, that is a problem. And that was an issue that we were willing to stand up for and take some heat for if we needed to.”

Gordon said in a message to families last week that a select group of special needs students will be the first to return to the classroom in Phase 1 of the back-to-school process for CMSD.

“In the meantime, most students will continue to learn remotely while staff engages in professional development and as they ready their classrooms for the return of students,” Gordon said in the message. “As scheduled, students in Phase 2 of our reopening will transition to Hybrid Learning next week, with students in Phase 3 to follow the week of March 22.”
Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit ideastream.org.

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