CLEVELAND — Rising COVID-19 cases across the country and the CDC’s new guidance on mask wearing are sparking conversation among Ohio teachers about health and safety in the classroom.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers said it means school districts need to make decisions about protocols in schools.
“We want more than anything to be back in school face-to-face with students,” said Melissa Cropper, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
Before that can happen, Cropper said school districts and teachers need to talk and the latest guidance about mask-wearing announced by the CDC gave them the perfect opportunity to do so.
“First and foremost, we think the CDC guidelines should be the floor for what the expectations are,” said Cropper.
The CDC’s guidance said everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask indoors and maintain three feet of physical distancing.
Cropper said funding districts are set to receive through the state budget and federal COVID-19 relief funds can help.
“Districts should be talking with their teachers and with parents of students about what it is that you need to feel safe and let's use this money to do those things to make you feel safe,” said Cropper.
Those conversations have been happening at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, according to Cleveland Teachers Union president Shari Obrenski.
“Making sure that all of the mitigation strategies are in place, that we have appropriate PPE,” said Obrenski. “When all of the voices are at the table talking about these difficult issues and working together to try to make sure that we can have the best experience possible. I think it really makes a difference.”
When students return to their classrooms in the fall, they and all adults in the building will be required to wear masks.
“I think we were a little ahead of the game on that one the CEO had already announced that we would be masking both adults and students, regardless of vaccination status a couple of weeks ago,” said Obrenski.
But Obrenski said the best way to ensure schools stay open is for those eligible to get vaccinated, something Cropper agrees that districts should make a priority.
“How can they encourage families to receive those vaccines and to really push that so that we can have as safe an environment as possible?” said Obrenski.
Until they find the answer to that question, OFT is focusing on addressing the most pressing issue now that there is more guidance.
“How can we do things safely and how can we get students back in school face to face with their teachers, but do it in a safe as well as possible. And that's why we're grateful for the CDC guidelines,” said Cropper.
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