CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Board of Education met Monday to discuss changes to Cincinnati Public Schools' COVID-19 policies after the district had two weeks of remote learning due to staffing issues caused by the virus.
Board member Mike Moroski suggested CPS require staff get the booster shot as part of its existing COVID vaccine plan.
"There is a real sense of urgency around this — and if we want to keep the schools open, we need to do everything we know works," Moroski said. "I also think it's helpful to know that we do know the booster increases one's ability to stay healthy and not die."
The board's policy committee will discuss a possible booster requirement before Moroski hopes to bring it back for a vote, but a second change he pushed for was voted down by the board.
As students, teachers and substitutes return to the classroom, the board considered requiring anyone who volunteers in CPS buildings to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test weekly before getting a volunteer badge.
Board President Ben Lindy, Vice President Carolyn Jones and member Dr. Kareem Moffett all indicated they were open to supporting a possible change for volunteers in the future but agreed the item was moving too fast for them to vote Monday night.
"Does that mean that more schools would have to go virtual? If so, how many? Are there other things we're not thinking about," Lindy said.
CPS Assistant Superintendent Susan Bunte said the district is reporting a decrease in its 7-day moving average of daily COVID cases. The district had a 91% staff attendance rate Monday, with Bunte noting they needed 120 fewer substitutes than they did on the district's worst day this semester.
The district has already made changes to streamline the hiring of substitute teachers, adding incentives like paying for the applicant's background checks. The process starts with a CPS application and then licensing by the state of Ohio.
"We're being intentional about making sure that we continue to hire as many (substitute teachers) as we possibly can," said Ross Turpeau, district director of talent acquisition and staffing.
Turpeau said the district has a roster of more than 500 possible substitute teachers and is processing about 60 new applications. The district set up a phone line to help those interested in applying get through the process, after several people reported applying and either being denied because of a delay or were never called.
The new help line number is 513-636-0160. CPS pays substitute teachers a $134 daily rate, and some so-called "super subs," which work five days a week and get benefits, make more.
The board also discussed how it wants to change busing in the fall, with members discussing how they want to go back to using yellow buses for seventh and eighth graders. CPS will not know how much that change could cost until after study on routes is finished.