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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

CPS Approves $647M Budget As Calls To Remove SROs Continue

Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 23, 2020 meeting)
Here's the timeline that led to an approval of the budget on Monday.

Cincinnati Public Schools has a budget in place for the fiscal year. The budget will give CPS $647 million to work with going forward after having to make changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Treasurer and CFO Jennifer Wagner gave the school board a stern warning though: they can't allow expenses to grow.

"Any new money, any new spend, has to come out of whatever something else is being spent on," Wagner said. "We cannot grow this budget or we're going to have to go back to the taxpayers for new money soon, sooner than you want."

A large chunk of budget increases is attributed to COVID-19. At least $27.5 million is going toward substitute teachers and PPE to aid CPS through the remainder of the pandemic.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 23, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 23, 2020 meeting)

CPS could be facing staffing issues in the future. Wagner said there could be a "staffing dilemma" based on if the school district stays remote or returns to a blended learning model.

"In January, when we return to the in-classroom instruction four or five days, we're going to need our full complimented staff," Wagner said. "So if you lay them off in October, you're not going to get them back in January or February when you really need them."

In July, 179 positions were reduced due to budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students Demand Removal Of School Resource Officers

During a regular board meeting Monday evening focused on the school's budget, multiple students demanded for the removal of school resource officers, or SROs, from the district during public comment.

Multiple students and supporters with the Young Activists Coalition made their pleas for the second week in a row. Speakers, including the group's president, Yousuf Munir, said minority students are more targeted by school resource officers when dealing with punishment.

"Even if the referrals to the police were completely proportionate, it is an absolute disgrace to the people and students and kids that you serve that students are criminalized at all," Munir said.

Superintendent Laura Mitchell said CPS started having conservations with Black students in June about what they want to see in their schools. Mitchell said the students aren't asking for the removal of SROs, but rather building a collaborative relationship.

COVID-19 And Distance Learning

CPS is currently in distance learning due to the limited number of staff available due to COVID-19.

School offices will be open twice a week and the central office will remain open Monday through Friday.

CPS plans to return to blended learning next January pending a decrease in the COVID data it monitors.

On Monday, the district reported 382 confirmed cases amongst students and staff, with 237 staff members being infected and 145 students testing positive.

More than 10,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the city of Cincinnati. The city’s positivity rateis currently at 7.1%.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.