Teachers union calls DPS layoffs ‘hazardous to students;’ Lolli defends vote

Dayton’s teachers union on Tuesday released a statement criticizing broad temporary layoffs by the school board, calling them “terribly hazardous to our students and their families” by eliminating student services and reducing academic offerings.

“Now more than ever, Dayton students and their families are in need of medical support and social/emotional care,” Dayton Education Association President David Romick said, citing stresses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. “School nurses, school counselors, and certified educators are trained and licensed to provide much-needed support to special needs students, medically fragile learners, foster children, and those children at risk of abuse or neglect.”

ExploreDayton school board, administrators varied on layoff opinions

The 241 temporary layoffs and furloughs approved in a 4-3 school board vote Friday affect 114 teachers union members, 56 bus drivers and 46 clerical employees, plus 25 non-union administrators and district support staff. The moves take effect Sept. 8-14.

Agreements with the unions mean that those laid off will retain their health insurance, with the district footing the bill, and that once the schools go back to in-person classes, the laid-off and furloughed staff will be brought back.

On the teachers union side, the largest groups affected by the layoffs were 20 music teachers, 19 art teachers, 16 preschool teachers and 14 physical education teachers, plus 22 school nurses.

“Dayton students are already less likely to have family access to artistic and musical resources and are always in need of physical activity to engage their bodies as well as their minds,” Romick said. “The Dayton Education Association applauds all other urban school districts in Ohio, and our neighboring remote learning districts here in Montgomery County, that have found a way to keep these student learning conditions intact in their remote learning models.”

ExploreDayton school board votes 4-3 in favor of major layoffs

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the cuts were painful, but she argued that those courses are “not conducive” to high-quality online learning when students lack instruments or needed supplies. She said retaining those staff would be “educationally and financially questionable.”

“We made reductions because there are subjects where online instruction is simply less effective, like hands-on classes in music, art and even PE,” Lolli said Tuesday. “There, we are providing most content on video and twice-weekly enrichment per grade level K-6 and with live classes for grades 7-8 in art and music. Health instead of PE has also been implemented in grades 7-12.”

The union’s “student learning conditions” argument is one they have used before. In their fight for a new contract in August of 2017, union members carried signs arguing, “teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”

Romick also criticized the school board’s broad cuts to preschool, saying they hurt both students and the families who rely on preschool teachers as resources.

“The community supported universal preschool as a ballot initiative in 2016, after realizing the need for robust early childhood education in Dayton,” he said. “Our Ohio-licensed preschool educators are uniquely trained to provide learning strategies and techniques to parents preparing their children for school. This should, and certainly could, continue during the Dayton remote learning period. The early childhood years can never be recouped.”

ExploreDayton schools go online for at least the first quarter

Lolli defended the district’s approach on preschool Tuesday, saying those youngest children could not stay engaged for significant stretches of time via screens rather than special classroom environments with “sand and water tables, dramatic play centers” and more.

The district is still trying to address student mental and physical health. Lolli said one counselor remains in each school, plus DPS hired student resiliency coordinators from Dayton Children’s, and the district health center at Roosevelt Elementary is still open for all DPS families.

“We do not take this lightly, are evaluating the situation carefully and regularly, and will resume in person instruction and bring temporarily furloughed people back as soon as health and safety permit,” she said.

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