Dozens of teachers held signs saying "Settle Now" in front of the Gahanna-Jefferson School District headquarters and Lincoln High school on Tuesday morning, after the teachers union voted to go on strike.
Talks broke down Monday between the teachers union and administrators over a proposal to resume some in-person classes, which was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
"Due to hours of lost time this week waiting for district proposals during mediation (including a proposal given to the Bargaining Team at 8:45 p.m Monday evening), and not yet reaching an agreement on some important elements of the contract, GJEA has made the incredibly difficult decision to be away from our students and strike,” said Gahanna Jefferson Education Association spokeswoman Betsy Baker in a statement posted to the union’s Facebook page early Tuesday morning.
At the picket line on Hamilton Road, Baker said switching from all-remote learning to a hybrid plan, with only some students returning to classrooms, may leave gaps. And she says more is needed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"It's about fighting for the safety and equity of our students," Baker said. "We want to make sure that we have a back-to-school model that sets them up for success."
Monday night's strike vote also came after a judge threw out a district request to bar teachers from striking.
The two sides have been at odds over what teachers call a lack of safety protocols and personal protective equipment. They’ve been working without a contract since June, and union members recently authorized negotiators to go on strike if they could not reach a deal by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools superintendent Steve Barrett says administrators are deeply disappointed in the “extreme action” that poses a “clear and present danger” to students.
“We will use a combination of Gahanna-Jefferson teachers and substitute teachers from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESC),” Barrett said in a Tuesday morning statement. “We have a long-standing relationship with the ESC, which is our current substitute teacher provider and resource for other district services. We had plans in place for the potential strike, and we believe the transition will be successful.”
The district says it will continue negotiations, and classes will remain entirely virtual at least through the rest of this week.