Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) is sending a warning to any school district thinking about not honoring its commitment to return to some form of in-person learning by March 1. He said the state might withhold vaccines if they don't bring kids back to the classroom.
DeWine said a large majority of districts in Ohio are back to fully in-person or hybrid learning. However, he said a handful of districts are signaling that they cannot return to return to classroom instruction by the date set by the state.
This includes a Cincinnati high school, Akron Public Schools, and Cleveland Metropolitan Schools.
DeWine said this unacceptable and even told Eric Gordon, CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan Schools, that the state might have to take action.
"We'll just have to cut off the vaccinations because that was the deal. That was the understanding it's not punitive it's just that these vaccinations, if they're not going to get kids back in school when they need to be back in school, we need to take them and vaccinate other people," DeWine said during a briefing Friday evening.
Watch: Gov. Mike DeWine calls on school districts to return to in-person instruction.
DeWine says after a frank conversation, Gordon said they're going to do their best to bring kids back to the classroom.
Earlier in the week, DeWine announced a call for school districts to come up with specific plans to address disrupted learning and improve student success. He said diverting vaccine to teachers and school staff instead of more people in vulnerable age groups was to serve the purpose of bringing students back to in-person instruction.
"This was a major decision to pull some of this vaccine out, put them into our schools but it was worth it if we can get our kids back in school and they can have three good months, March, April, May," said DeWine.
If Governor DeWine wants the few remaining schools to reopen safely and quickly he should stop making threats and help address the core concerns that administrators, educators, staff, and parents have with reopening prior to vaccination.
— Melissa Cropper (@mcropper1) February 12, 2021
Ohio's largest teachers' unions hit back at DeWine saying there are many factors that go into returning to the classroom that go beyond vaccination.
"It's complicated. It does require resources. You need to make sure that you have the protective equipment. You need to make sure that you have the materials and supplies. You need to make sure that you have adequate staffing," said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association.
Scott DiMauro, Ohio Education Association, says getting students back into the classroom is complex and goes beyond vaccinating staff. He adds that it would be unethical to withhold the COVID-19 vaccine from people already scheduled to get it pic.twitter.com/xn1gVmzIgU
— Andy Chow (@andy_chow) February 13, 2021
DiMauro added that it would be unethical to withhold vaccination from a teacher or school staff member who is already scheduled to receive the shot.
DeWine said he remains hopeful that the state can reach a good faith agreement with the school districts, emphasizing that most of the districts are already back in the classroom or plan to be by March 1.