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Cleveland Metropolitan School District releases plan for return using hybrid learning beginning March 1

The district will bring students back in phases between the period of March 1 through March 15.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) has announced plans to get students back in the classroom for in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. District Superintendent and CEO Eric Gordon said Friday that CMSD will begin using a hybrid learning model, bringing back students in phases beginning March 1.

RELATED: 'We're just not there yet': Cleveland Teachers Union president skeptical about district's plan to resume in-person learning

“We’re going to begin on March 1 by bringing back some of our highest need special needs students,” Gordon said. “Also, potentially some of our career tech students and some of our off-track seniors. It’ll be a smaller group to get those students back first.”

The week of March 8, more students return to the classroom, including English language learnings and students grades Pre-K through 2nd. More off-track high school students and career tech students will also return. Finally, the week of March 15, the district will begin phasing back all students whose families having chosen to go back.

Parents can find information about the reopening plan on the district website and should expect to see information arrive at homes beginning Monday, Feb. 22. The district also plans to hold events for families to see what schools will look like and how they’ll operate with new safety protocols in place.

The plan comes after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called out a handful of districts last week – including CMSD – for potentially not meeting the state’s request for schools to reopen by March 1 as K-12 employees were prioritized for the vaccine earlier this month.

"We said to our school districts that we would take some of the precious vaccine allotted to Ohio and vaccinate teachers and other staff as long as they'd be back in school full-time or in a hybrid model no later than March 1," DeWine said last week. "We've learned there are a handful of schools that have said they will break that commitment. Not just a commitment to me, but also to the children of their districts. This is simply not acceptable. This is about the kids."

RELATED: Gov. Mike DeWine criticizes school districts, including Cleveland and Akron, who are not returning to in-person learning by March 1 goal

Gordon responded to the governor’s comments in Friday’s interview with 3News.

“I clearly understand the commitment that I made in signing that form to the governor and also my commitment to doing this right,” Gordon said Friday. He added that the governor’s March 1 deadline simply wouldn’t work in Cleveland.

“What the governor wants is everyone back on day one. That would not work in a complicated system like ours,” said Gordon. “That’s why I’m using a phased-in approach that is meeting my commitment to get students back, but doing so in a way that makes sure students, families and educators have the support and transition that they need to be successful.”

Gordon says the district was also driven by the data, noting that Cuyahoga County has a chance to finally return to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 advisory system after spending months in the red zone. Another factor is the vaccination of teachers and staff.

Gordon received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 9, along with other workers within the district.

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“We understand that vaccination is a very personal issue," Gordon said before getting the shot. "There are longstanding, negative historical consequences particularly in the Black or African American community, and there are people who are religiously or morally opposed. So this is not a mandatory vaccine. However, when we do return to work, employees are expected to return and serve our students whether they chose to be vaccinated or not.”

Gordon said the second doses for CMSD staffers will be administered March 10-20.

RELATED: What you need to know as Ohio prepares to launch its centralized COVID-19 vaccine website

'WE'RE JUST NOT THERE YET': Cleveland Teachers Union president skeptical about district's plan to resume in-person learning