A poll of OEA members in mid-July found that 69 percent of education professionals statewide do not believe that schools and campuses will be able to reopen safely in the fall.
“OEA stands with its members, parents, and community partners in recognizing the critical role schools play in academic and non-academic success of our students,” the OEA Board of Directors, which consists of more than 50 educators, education support professionals and higher education faculty statewide, said in a unanimously adopted Position Statement on Safe and Equitable Reopening Plans for Schools and Campus Buildings. “Given the dangers posed by the spread of COVID-19, however, OEA believes that reopening for in-person instruction prematurely poses unacceptable risks to the lives and health of students, adults who work in schools, and the people they care for.”
In early July, Governor Mike DeWine issued a set of guidelines to shape school reopening plans. Most of that guidance was in the form of recommendations, rather than requirements, for things like masks, sanitization, and social distancing protocols. OEA has been calling for greater accountability and enforcement of those measures. Ample testing must also be available to ensure individuals afflicted with COVID-19 are negative prior to returning to school, and evidence-based protocols for contact tracing must also be in place.
Under Ohio’s Public Health Advisory Alert System, OEA believes that any school or campus building located in a county designated as Level 4 (purple) or Level 3 (red) must remain closed to in-person instruction. Until a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 is widely available, schools in all counties, including Level 2 (orange) and Level 1 (yellow) should be permitted to open for in-person instruction only if all CDC requirements can be fully met.
Any safe reopening plan will require adequate resources, including funding for a sufficient number of educators, support staff, nurses, and custodial workers to meet the needs of students in the classrooms. Adequate funding will also be needed for technology devices and high-speed internet access to ensure all students have reliable, quality access to remote learning platforms, regardless of where they live.
“No education employee in any setting should be forced to choose between their livelihood and their health or safety,” the OEA Board of Directors said. “OEA will continue to organize and engage members to effectively advocate for healthy and safe learning and working conditions, essential legal protections for members, and equitable learning opportunities for all students.”
The OEA Board of Directors’ Position Statement can be viewed here: OEA Board Position Statment on Safe and Equitable School Reopening (.pdf file)