For Immediate Release
Columbus, OH – With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant once again threatening the start of a school year, the Columbus Education Association, the Union representing more than 4,000 educators in Columbus City Schools, is calling for enhanced safety measures to keep schools open to full in-person learning:
- Implement a policy of requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or weekly testing in lieu of vaccination, for all Columbus City Schools employees. On August 9, the Ohio Department of Health reported that of the 18,662 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ohio since January 1, 2021, 18,367 (98.4%) have been patients who are not fully vaccinated. The data shows that vaccination remains the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Our union fully supports the National Education Association’s call for such measures and is prepared to sign off on an agreement with our District to implement this policy today.
- Ensure all CCS buildings have proper ventilation. Thanks to federal COVID-19-related grant dollars, CCS has finally committed to providing air conditioning in all school buildings. However, HVAC systems will not be in place at the start of this school year in roughly 10 % of all CCS buildings. CEA calls for the district to provide enhanced ventilation protocols consistent with the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Tools to Improve Ventilation recommendations updated June 2, 2021, including providing portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems, providing portable fans as recommended, and opening windows where safely possible. In buildings without air conditioning, CEA additionally calls for granting outdoor mask breaks for students and staff in addition to recess, providing cold bottled water, and utilizing heat days when indoor classroom temperature exceeds the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Technical Manual recommendation of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Each building without air conditioning has a unique situation. Union members serving on the CEA-CCS Joint Health and Safety Committee will be conducting walkthroughs and securing needed resources at each of these buildings in the first weeks of the school year.
- Allow for learning consistency and maximum flexibility by extending the successful 2020-2021 School Year Memorandum of Understanding between CEA and CCS. We want to ensure that school buildings remain open to full in-person learning. However, it is highly likely that individual classrooms, school buildings, or portions of the district will be required to quarantine for some period during the upcoming school year. Fortunately, CEA and CCS invested more than a month developing a standardized, scrutinized, and ultimately well-tested plan for moving between modes of learning, in the form of our 34-page 2020-2021 School Year Memorandum of Understanding signed in October of 2020. Extending this MOU through the current school year will ensure that learning can continue uninterrupted even when students and educators must quarantine. It also contains important health and safety provisions for students and staff alike. We call on the district to agree to extend its important provisions through this current school year.
“It is critical that we do everything in our power to keep schools open and safe,” said CEA President John Coneglio. “These recommended common-sense safety measures give our students and members the best chance of remaining in classrooms this school year doing what we do best.”
The Columbus Education Association is the union representing more than 4,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and other education professionals in Columbus City Schools. The Columbus Education Association is a proud affiliate of the Ohio Education Association and the National Education Association.