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Cleveland Metropolitan School District pulls back partial reopening plan in response to COVID-19 surge

District scraps soft reopening for fragile students after Cuyahoga County placed in "red zone."

CLEVELAND — This week's surge of COVID-19 cases has ended plans for a soft-reopening of Cleveland public schools.

District CEO Eric Gordon broke the news to families and staff on Friday after conferring with city and county health officials.

The district has used distance learning since the outbreak began in March.

“I’m disappointed. I was really looking forward for us to start bringing our young people back,” Gordon told 3News on Friday. “We know kids need to be in school, but I have a responsibility to 37,000 kids, their families and my educators.”

The district planned to open schools for what Gordon called fragile learners, which include students with disabilities and seniors currently not on track to graduate.

That changed with Thursday's announcement by Gov. Mike DeWine that the coronavirus is resurging throughout the state.

Cuyahoga County is one of 29 Ohio counties now placed in “red zones” due to a recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

The union representing CMSD teachers hailed the decision.

“We appreciate that CEO Gordon and the members of the Board made the health and safety of CMSD students, staff, and families their number one priority when making this difficult educational decision,” said Shari Obrenski, CTU President.

“We all want to get back into our classrooms with our students, but we cannot do that safely right now. CTU members will continue to work with the district and parents to provide a quality education for Cleveland’s children in a remote setting.” 

Gordon's announcement Friday also means winter sports, such as boys and girls basketball, won’t start until after New Year’s at the earliest.

The CMSD second quarter ends Dec. 21 and Gordon said a reopening will reviewed then.

“Our community is 86 percent people of color and we know COVID-19 has afflicted the black and Hispanic community at four times the rate of the white community,” Gordon said.

“We have a large number of people with adverse health issues that COVID-19 can put them at risk for so, we are following the cautious path as the Cuyahoga County board health recommends.

“If the county is red school should be in remote and we're hoping that the conditions settle down quickly so that we can move forward with our phase-in plan.”