Columbus City Schools plan remote learning if teachers strike

(The Center Square) – Ohio’s largest school district continues to move forward with plans to open the school year for students Aug. 24, despite the system’s teachers union getting closer to a strike.

Jennifer Adair, president of the Columbus City Schools Board of Education, said in a statement the board was troubled to learn the Columbus Education Association filed a notice of intent to strike a day after a 20th negotiating session.

“The board’s offer is comprehensive, fair, and respectful. It is responsive to specific concerns raised by CEA and includes respectful economic terms,” Adair said in the statement. “But CEA has continued to refuse to provide a response to all remaining issues. With this lack of good faith efforts by CEA, we believe announcing a strike is premature and a disservice to our school community.”

The two sides spent hours at the negotiating table Wednesday with a federal mediator but failed to reach an agreement. The union followed with that session with its notice of intent to strike.

CEA members expect to meet Aug. 21, if no agreement has been reached, to vote on whether to strike, which could start Aug. 22, the Monday prior to Wednesday’s first day of classes.

“CEA has consistently maintained that we are fighting not just for CEA members, but for our students and community. That is why CEA will continue that fight until a fair agreement is reached for the schools Columbus students deserve.”  CEA spokeswoman Regina Fuentes said. “Our educators, students and the entire community deserve a fair contract for CEA.”

The district also announced plans on its website to move forward with the opening of school Aug. 24 by using nonunion substitutes and remote learning if a strike takes place.

“A strike is disruptive and hurts our students more than anyone else. The board is determined to reach an agreement, and we will continue our preparations for opening day on Aug. 24 in hope that our teachers will be in their classrooms with our students,” Adair said. “Even so, it is important for our students, families, teachers, staff, and community to know we are well prepared with alternate opening plans so that student learning can proceed as it should.”

Teachers authorized earlier this month a 10-day strike notice, which allowed them to file that notice of intent to strike.

The union is asking for smaller class sizes, full-time art, music and physical education teachers at the elementary-school level, functioning heating and air-conditioning in classrooms, planning time at the elementary level and a cap on the number of class periods in a day.