COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A strike by teachers in Ohio’s largest school district entered its third day Wednesday — the first day of school for some 47,000 students, with some of those students and their parents rallying to them.
Parents, students, teachers and other staff gathered at schools in the Columbus School District with picket plans for hours, advocating for safer buildings, better heating and air conditioning, smaller class sizes and a curriculum more comprehensive which includes art, music and physical education. This is the union’s first strike in the district since 1975.
Picketers blasted music on the sidewalks outside Whetstone High School in Columbus and waved drivers to honk their horns. Some held up signs reading “Columbus schools deserve an air of work,” “a history lesson in progress,” and “my feet hurt but I’ll walk as long as it takes.”
The school district and union resumed negotiations Wednesday afternoon. The school board said its offer to the union puts children first.
“We have offered generous compensation for teachers and provisions that would have a positive impact on classrooms,” the board said in a statement.
Eva Tweneboagh, a senior at Whetstone High School, picketed alongside her teachers, friends and parents of friends on a sunny Wednesday morning. She said it was strange to start with another disrupted school year, especially since she “didn’t have a normal school year” until high school.
Although she fears the strike will continue and affect things like college scholarships and her grades, she says, her professors should not back down.
“What they’re asking for is reasonable,” Tweneboagh said. The school district and teachers “should be able to come together,” she said.
The Ohio Education Association said more than 94% of Columbus Education Association members voted to reject the school board’s final offer late Sunday. The union represents more than 4,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and other workers, although it’s unclear how many of those 4,000 members were off work Wednesday.
The tens of thousands of students in the district are now starting the school year with distance education, consisting of lesson plans and videos that they can access through their schools without a teacher to guide them. It’s a start that worries some parents. Remote learning has contributed to students falling behind in school and leading to mental health and behavioral issues.
Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced in a press release that the city is partnering with area recreation centers and nonprofits to open “support centers” with reliable internet service for children. students affected by the teachers’ strike.
The centers began operating on Wednesday and offer spaces for students to access classes online, however, they are “not intended to replace in-person academic instruction.”
Starting Thursday, some schools, recreation centers and nonprofits will provide meals.
Whitney Price, mother of a first-grader at Columbus Spanish Immersion School, said that while she was supportive of the teachers, she wished those negotiations between the teachers and the school district had happened sooner when it didn’t. would not have affected the children at school.
Price showed up at the Linden Community Center with her son, looking for internet and lunch for her first day of school.
Price, a restaurant waitress, said the thought of continuing to be a mother and worker, as well as a teacher and counselor after doing so effectively during the pandemic, makes her anxious.
“But we’re just rolling with the punches,” Price said, giving her 6-year-old a squeeze in the rec center lobby. “Whatever I must be, I will do.”