COLUMBUS, Ohio — As students and parents look ahead to the start of the coming school year in Ohio, the labor union representing the more than 120,000 teachers and staff in the state has issued a strong message about COVID-19.
In a release, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) says that any school or campus building located in a county designated by the state's COVID-19 warning system as Level 4 (purple) or Level 3 (red) must remain closed to in-person instruction. The OEA adds that 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.
As of Wednesday, three Northeast Ohio counties are at Level 3 (red) status: Cuyahoga, Medina, and Erie. Summit, Lorain, and Trumbull counties have previously been at Level 3, but have been downgraded as the coronavirus numbers continue to move.
The release from the OEA comes as school districts across the state are trying to determine how best to start the academic year, while keeping students and staff safe from coronavirus. In Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Akron Public Schools have both decided to start the year remotely.
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.
“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.”