CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers filed a motion on Friday to delay the upcoming return of Cincinnati Public Schools to face-to-face teaching.
According to a union press release, CFT filed the complaint and a petition for restraining orders in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas on Friday. The lawsuit seeks to delay personal briefing until an arbitrator can rule on a complaint filed by the union. In the press release, CFT argues that the lawsuit was necessary to protect employees, students, and families from COVID-19.
A spokesman for CPS declined to comment.
“The lawsuit was an unfortunate last resort for our union,” said CFT President Julie Sellers. “We are disappointed that the Board of Education and Superintendent Mitchell have refused to solicit information from teachers about when and how schools can be safely reopened, even though Hamilton County continues to be rated ‘red’ Ohio COVID Assessment (Public Health Advisory). “
The Cincinnati School Board voted on January 16 to return some students to face-to-face classes in the week of February 1, beginning with special classrooms and junior students on February 2.
CPS switched to a distance learning model in November due to staffing issues due to the virus. The district then set a goal to return to face-to-face tuition when cases were below 40 per 100,000 Hamilton Counties. The Ohio Department of Health’s latest numbers are much higher, but Superintendent Laura Mitchell argued that despite the district’s prior commitment to a statistical milestone, they don’t tell a full story.
“If you just look at the governor’s color-coding system, you can paint that in a box,” she said. “When you look at number 40 that you can paint in a box.”
Sellers said CFT made a request for public records for text messages and emails related to the decision to return to face-to-face instruction while cases in the county remain high.
“Unfortunately, CPS blocked the wall, forcing us to ask the court and an arbitrator to step in and protect our members, students and all of our families,” Sellers said. “In response to a survey, nearly 80% of CPS teachers said they would be uncomfortable going back to overcrowded schools and classrooms for face-to-face lessons until the vaccines are distributed and have their full effect.”
Distribution of Pfizer vaccine started for the district this weekAn estimated 2,000 employees received the first of two shots.
Those who fall into what the district identified as Group A received the first dose, including:
- Teachers and paraprofessionals in preschool, kindergarten and classrooms in grades 1-3
- Teachers and paraprofessionals in special classrooms from pre-school to 12th grade
- Paraprofessionals in individual discussions
- Sun helper
- Related service providers
- Custodians and civil engineers
Representatives from the CFT said the group will seek a hearing on their motion for a restraining order in court on Monday.