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Cleveland Metropolitan School District takes a step toward returning to classrooms

Thousands of educational staff are preparing for their COVID vaccinations as the school system decides when to restart in-person learning.

CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio’s largest school system starts vaccinating teachers on Wednesday. Right now, district leaders are still working on plans for when to reopen schools in a hybrid learning system.

A dozen school leaders, including Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, received their first COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning.

"You will see people of color here in the organization as well as union leaders who are all standing with me today saying we feel safe and comfortable," Gordon said. "We hope the rest of our employees do, as well."

Hundreds of educational staff members will get vaccinated tomorrow in a process that is expected to take two weeks for thousands of employees. Scott DiMauro is the president of Ohio’s largest teachers union and says vaccinations means one step towards getting back into classrooms.

"As more and more people are being vaccinated, that means that conditions over time are going to be safer for more districts to be open to in-person instruction," he said.

Even with mass vaccinations in Cleveland starting this week, Gordon doesn’t expect to make a recommendation on when teachers and students can return to a hybrid learning system until late this week or early next week.

"We will continue to look at the public health data, which is improving in Cuyahoga County, which is exciting news," he said. "I also want to see how this process works this week to make sure we’re on track for vaccines and remembering that our second dose doesn’t happen until mid-March."

DiMauro says most school systems in Ohio are currently in an in-person or hybrid learning system. The vaccinations statewide will protect all educators, but will mostly help those districts that are remote return to some kind of in-person learning. However, he adds safety protocols will still be in place for months.

"It may still be a little while before masks, before some kind of distancing and some kind of modifications are truly behind us," he admitted. "I think we’re going to be exercising caution in the way we do school for quite some time."

DiMauro adds he expects to see the majority of schools in Ohio be at least hybrid by late March but still offer an option for remote learning.