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Cleveland Metropolitan School District announces delay in return to in-person learning

Posted at 12:12 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 20:35:32-05

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Metropolitan School District said Thursday that it will delay its return to in-person classes by one week so families have time to receive back-to-school mailers and opt out of hybrid learning if they wish.

In a letter to parents and caregivers, CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said the return to in-person classes will be delayed by one week, with Phase 1 students returning to school the week of March 8, Phase 2 students returning to school the week of March 15 and Phase 3 students returning to school the week of March 22.

All CMSD students will remain in remote learning for the week of March 1.

"For one week, we can have a much more effective start," said Gordon. "We will have bumps in, we're huge, but we can't plan for a bumpy start. We have to plan for the best start possible"

School vaccination progress chart
Chart showing the progress of Ohio schools in getting vaccinated, as of Feb. 25.

After CMSD announced its plan to return to hybrid learning on Friday, February 19, Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski told News 5: "Just in good conscience and in the transparent relationship that we have had, I cannot say that everything will be ready to go in the timeline that [CMSD CEO Eric Gordon] has laid out," said Obrenski.

Gordon says the delay is not related to CTU's pushback and that the district already planned for a small number of teachers to return on March 1 and for the full union to return March 8. The delay, Gordon says, means all teachers will report back on March 8.

"My commitment to the Teachers Union is they should expect safe workplaces, I believe we have them," said Gordon. "This is more about having an effective return. I'm confident in the safety."

CEO Gordon talks to reporters in a hallway at East Technical High School in Cleveland on Thursday, February 25.

He pointed out that buildings have been outfitted with social distancing markings in the hallways and tables and desks have been moved to make the spaces safe and to comply with a check list of tasks the Union and District are creating to ensure a safe return.

But the delay means CMSD is going to miss even the broadest interpretation of Governor Mike DeWine's March 1 deadline for all districts to be offering in-person instruction. Since CMSD is returning students to hybrid learning in phases, much of the district's students won't have the option to return to a classroom until March 22.

DeWine says he's disappointed in CMSD's change, but that overall, he's happy that 599 of the state's 609 districts are offering some kind of in-person or hybrid learning option, accounting for 95 percent of Ohio's students.

"I look at the cup or the glass as about 95 percent full," said DeWine, holding up a coffee mug during his digital press briefing. "We’ve got about 95 percent of these kids back in school by March 1. We have some that are coming two weeks late, some maybe three. But 95 percent is pretty good.”

Governor DeWine lifts a coffee mug during his press briefing, saying that he's happy with how many Ohio students are able to return to in-person instruction in March.

Gordon said he is confident that when students and educators return from spring break, CMSD will operate in full hybrid learning for in-person and remote learners.

This one-week delay will enable us to ensure that each family has received their children’s back-to-school mailers and has had the opportunity to opt out of hybrid learning if they wish. It will also allow school and District staff to better plan for necessary adjustments to classroom and staff assignments, transportation schedules, in-school meal planning, staff professional development and classroom readiness.

Even with this one-week delay in returning to in-person learning, I am still confident we can complete these important transitions during the month of March. In this way, when our students and educators return from spring break, CMSD will operate in a full hybrid learning model for both in-person and remote learners for the full fourth quarter of the school year.

The Cleveland Teachers Union issued the following statement regarding the timeline schedule.

"The members of the Cleveland Teachers Union are encouraged that the district is showing their willingness to adjust their timeline to ensure the safety of educators, students, and families, as well as to facilitate a smooth transition for our educators and students to in-person, hybrid learning. We will continue to collaborate with the district to tackle the challenging work needed to make this a safe and smooth transition."

RELATED: CMSD announces phased return to in-person learning starting March 1 after urging by Gov. DeWine