CPS board members at odds with parents, teachers on classroom return

‘I wish they would’ve been brave,’ one parent said after Monday’s inaction.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 5:04 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Some CPS parents are accusing board members of whiffing on a remote learning plan in the face of a COVID surge caused overwhelmingly by the omicron variant.

The plan, proposed by the district administration, would have taken effect Thursday and lasted until Jan. 18.

It emerged the same day nearly 400 CPS employees were out with a positive COVID test. The district was not able to staff all the absences, according to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

Board members debated the remote learning plan for nearly two hours at a meeting Monday night. Board member Mike Moroski spoke out in its favor: “If we don’t shut down for this pandemic, the pandemic is going to shut us down,” he said.

The meeting adjourned without the plan coming to a vote, though several board members vowed to resume debate on the plan at next Monday’s meeting.

Angie Wilson has two daughters at CPS schools. She says that was the time to make a decision, no matter the blowback.

“I wish they would’ve been brave and just said, ‘We know you’re going to be mad at us, we know it’s not going to make everybody happy, but we have to be safe and keep the kids safe,’” Wilson said.

US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Sunday acknowledged the argument, saying he understood the need for short-term closures based on staffing shortages that created “safety issues.”

But in the same breath, per CNN, Cardona said the students have “suffered enough” and that in-person learning must remain the goal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci struck the same chord on ABC, acknowledging that it’s a balancing act for districts as omicron spreads but that “it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school” so long as mask mandates and “test-to-stay” guidelines are in place.

CPS Board member Eve Bolton agrees. She says it’s not just teachers who are absent, but staff including lunchtime employees, maintenance employees and bus drivers as well.

“But these are the realities of COVID,” she said, later adding remote learning should be viewed as “a last resort” due to its deleterious impact on education, social development and mental health.

OMICRON: Kentucky’s highest positivity rate skyrockets | Ohio hospitalizations climb to new record high

Wilson believes Bolton and the board aren’t being realistic about the current surge.

“The numbers are high,” she said, “and the pandemic is raging in Cincinnati. I think it’s now the worst time to send [students] back into the classroom.”

Wilson is right about the numbers. Cincinnati was averaging around 120 newly confirmed daily cases before the holidays. On New Years’ Day alone, it registered nearly 1,000.

Monday’s tally was 560. The Cincinnati Health Department says it expects cases of the omicron variant to double every three days.

(Hospitalization numbers remain low in keeping with omicron’s supposed less severe course of illness. It should be noted, however, that hospitalizations often lag case data by at least a week.)

In any event, the variant’s runaway transmissibility could lead to it burning itself out by mid-to-late January, as experts like Fauci have forecasted.

That doesn’t change the present, though, which CFT President Julie Sellers characterized to the Enquirer as “a real crisis.”

Sellers says the board could have taken action prior to yesterday’s meeting, considering data showed omicron on the rise prior to the holiday break.

“It’s disappointing to me that schools didn’t make a decision prior to the break to take an extra week,” said Melissa Cropper the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Wilson agrees, adding the board should be taking more cues from the teachers’ union.

“The teachers are telling us what they need and what feels safe. They’re with the kids in the classroom everyday,” she said. “[They] should not be at odds with the board.”

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