Some teachers balk at returning to school buildings, cite safety concerns due to COVID-19

Posted at 4:04 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 19:58:10-04

CINCINNATI — As some schools finalize back-to-school plans and others rethink theirs, upset teachers are speaking out, worried that safety measures in place are not enough.

“When I say ‘our students,’ we call them ‘our kids.’ We want to be with our kids,” said Stacy Recker, social studies teacher at West Clermont High School.

The question is not whether teachers want to get back into the classroom, said Lonnie Dusch, science teacher at Princeton High School, but whether districts can make sure it is safe for people to go back to school at all.

“We want to be back, but we want to be back safely with our students,” Dusch said. “I do have a number of concerns in terms of whether we can do that safely.”

So does Recker.

“Right now in my classroom I can maybe get a foot of distance between my students,” Recker said.

When COVID-19 cases in this corner of Ohio started to climb again earlier this month, the Ohio Education Association questioned the wisdom of many districts planning to return fully to in-person lessons. It said any counties under a red or purple health advisory from Gov. Mike DeWine need to do virtual learning.

As of Thursday, Hamilton County was still in the red.

“And even, I think, the schools that are in Level 2 need to strongly consider going virtually if they can’t guarantee the safety of their students, the staff and the families that the students go back to,” Dusch said.

That would include the rest of the counties in Southwest Ohio.

Teachers union representatives who spoke to WCPO 9 said they want every district to require masks and allow for 6 feet of social distancing at all times. They also are asking districts to have specific plans for transitioning to and from remote learning and quarantine procedures in the event of a positive case.

“Our members deserve to not be anxious or fearful about contracting the virus at what potentially is a super-spreader event at a large high school or middle school,” Recker said.

A Cincinnati Public Schools board member said the board would likely talk about reopening plans at an executive session Thursday and the board is expected to discuss those plans at a public meeting Monday.

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers - not affiliated with OEA — has told WCPO 9 it also wants to see the year start fully remote if the situation doesn’t improve.