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Columbus Schools Will Spend Up To $50K On Plans For Possible Strike

While both sides insist they are bargaining in good faith, the Columbus City Schools and the teachers union continue to plan for a possible strike this fall.  Alison Holm has more.

The Columbus City Schools board voted Tuesday to hire a Michigan-based company to prepare contingency plans in case of a teacher strike this fall.  Huffmaster Crisis Response inc. and huffmaster Staffing Inc will be paid up to $50,000 to draft plans.  The legislation does not include the cost of hiring "alternate staff" in case of a strike.  At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, board vice president Michael Cole called the countrat a precautions.

"I think that it's important that our parents and our community know not only that we are anticipating opeing school on day one, but that we are bargaining [in] the best interests of our students, first and foremost.  Secondly, that we are responsible governors who want to be pro-active, who want to be thoughtful, who want to be sure that our children have somewhere to be, in a classroom learning, in a safe, warm, dry environment."

But Columbus Education Association president John Coneglio, who stood outside with dozens of CEA supporters, called the contract a waste of resources.

"It is unfathomable that our district is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on [a] strike-breaking firm when that money could be better spent on counsellors, nurses and support personnel."

In May, four thousand teachers, nurses, school counsellors and social workers of the CEA gave leadership the authority to issue a ten-day strike notice if contracts talks break down this summer.  the union says the sticking points are not just salary, but safe working conditions and adequate staffing for district programs including art, musc, PE and other services.

School librarian Courtney Johnson told board members that reaching a contract agreement that expands services is crucial, because current staffing looks bleak.

"It looks like middle school libraries that are shuttered three days a week.  It looks like elementary instructional assistants doing the work of school librarians with three hours of support from their licensed media specialist once every five weeks.  It looks like highly qualified legislators leaving our district, and it looks like unfilled positions for an entire school year."

Both sides says they will continue negotiations over the summer.  The CEA contract expires August 18th, the day before the start of the school year.  Another round of talks is scheduled for Thursday.

In other action, the school board voted to form a millage committee in August, to continue discussions about placing a levy or bond issue on the November 2020 ballot.

While Tuesday was the last regularly scheduled board meeting before the end of the fiscal year, there will be special meeting scheduled for June 28th to vote on any unresolved issues. 

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.
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