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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 Board Member Bates Asks For Grace After Video Of Her Surfaces Online

Cory Sharber
CPS Board Member Melanie Bates pictured entering a school board meeting on Feb. 13, 2021.

A board member at Cincinnati Public Schools landed in hot water over the weekend after a video of her making disparaging remarks about Walnut Hills parents surfaced online.

Board Member Melanie Bates said she was unaware she was being secretly videotaped at a pub in St. Bernard on Friday. She made her remarks during an appearance on the" target="_blank">Nathan Ivey Show on Monday.

Bates said she was venting during a private conversation, during which she allegedly said, “I’m so sick of these Walnut Hills people.” Referring to teachers, she also allegedly said, “Suck it up and go back to work. They’re a bunch of f***ing whiners making 70 to 80 thousand dollars a year.”

Bates also expressed disappointment in Board Vice President Ryan Messer voting to keep Walnut Hills remote. She addressed the alleged remarks during Monday evening’s board meeting.

“I deeply regret allowing my emotions to get the best of me,” Bates said. “This has been a very frustrating time for everyone, and I ask for your grace. I have the utmost respect for CPS families and employees.”

During the meeting’s hearing from the public, multiple speakers called for Bates to resign, including a student, parent and a teacher.

Staff Vaccinations, Health and Safety Update

During last night’s board meeting, Superintendent Laura Mitchell announced that roughly 1,900 staff members received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend.

CPS began vaccinating staff members after making a deal with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to return to some form of in-person learning by March 1. DeWine criticized CPS after they voted to keep Walnut Hills remote. Mitchell said this wasn’t a proud moment for her or the school district.

“We acted in good faith to do what we thought was the absolute best thing to protect our staff members and to protect our students and to get them back in school,” Mitchell said.

High schoolers, as well as fourth through sixth graders, began transitioning to blended learning last week. Seventh and eighth graders will begin transitioning March 1.

Last December, CPS Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Trimble-Oliver said for blended learning to happen, Cincinnati would need to average 40 new COVID cases per 100,000 people per day. Last night, Trimble-Oliver announced the city is averaging less than 17.

“Again, another rapid decrease,” Trimble-Oliver said. “This was at 28.7 a week ago today, so a rapid, encouraging decrease.”

More than 1,000 CPS students and staff members have tested positive for the virus since May 2020.

Overall, Cincinnati is averaging more than 50 new cases according to the seven-day moving average. The city’s positivity rate is at 7.8%.

However, Hamilton County is averaging more than 336 cases per 100,000 people. The COVID-19 variant, known as B.1.1.7, has also been discovered within the county. The variant was also discovered in Northern Kentucky in January.

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