Morning Headlines: A Real Snow Day for Area Schools; Akron Public Schools Says it Will Stick to Reopening Plan
Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, February 16:
- A real snow day for area schools
- Akron Public Schools says it will stick to reopening plan
- Akron professors to begin voting on new contract
- University of Akron to consider sale or lease of property
- Infrastructure report card gives Ohio a C-
- LaRose limits drop boxes again
- Statewide online vaccine signup to be available soon
- COVID-19 cases below 2K for a second day
- Coronavirus alters Ash Wednesday plans
A real snow day for area schools
Many school districts throughout the region have canceled classes both in person and online due to the winter storm. Most districts made the call last night as snow and freezing rain fell. The winter storm warning remains in effect through 1:00 p.m. for a portion of north central Ohio. The national weather service says snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain has made for slick conditions. They urge travelers to plan for the conditions as they head out today.
Akron Public Schools says it will stick to reopening plan
Akron school leaders say they are moving forward with plans they’ve made to bring students back to class beginning March 15. The governor’s office says that’s not good enough. Gov. Mike DeWine called out Akron last Friday for not meeting a March 1 deadline to have students back for hybrid or in-person learning. That was a condition the state imposed in order for districts to receive COVID-19 vaccines for their staff. Akron leaders say they’ve had 2,000 special needs students in school once or twice a week since February 1. But a DeWine spokesman says that does not meet the requirement. An Akron spokesman says on a conference call DeWine’s staff described the March 1 date as a goal and said districts would not be punished for missing it.
Akron professors to begin voting on new contract
Ballots will go out Friday asking some 400 members of the faculty union at the University of Akron to vote on a new 6-year employment contract. Union president Pam Schulze says the extended length provides stability. She credits the union’s negotiating team with helping to forge an improved relationship with administrators during the talks. The two sides were at odds last year after the university laid off 96 union faculty members, invoking a clause in the previous contract that allowed the move. That language is not part of this new deal. And pay increases are linked to enrollment, which Schulze says is one of the university’s greatest challenges going forward.
University of Akron to consider sale or lease of property
The University of Akron is seeking to reduce its footprint as a way to trim its budget. Cleveland.com reports that the university is considering selling or leasing up to 1 million square feet of space, mostly on the edge of campus. Enrollment has fallen by nearly one third over the past decade and administrators hope to reduce property holdings to align with fewer students. The university received a Knight grant to hire a real estate consultant to develop the plan.
Infrastructure report card gives Ohio a C-
Ohio’s aging infrastructure needs attention, according to a report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group gave the state an overall grade of C minus, but its levees, roads and transit each got a D. The best performing areas were in rail and solid waste management, which received Bs. The former president of the Engineers Society’s Ohio Council says Ohio’s roadway system is one of the most extensive and heavily traveled in the country. And the state transportation department’s chief engineer says it requires constant investment to maintain.
LaRose limits drop boxes again
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has reissued a contentious order limiting the number of ballot drop boxes to one per county for the May primary. The directive, issued Friday, came after LaRose was asked to break a tie in Hamilton County over whether expanding drop boxes should be studied. An identical order LaRose issued last election sparked litigation by the Ohio Democratic Party and voting and civil rights groups. The order was allowed to stand by the courts, but they rejected the idea that LaRose needs additional legislative action before authorizing drop boxes at multiple locations.
Statewide online vaccine signup to be available soon
The task of scheduling a coronavirus vaccine could get a little easier in Ohio. The state had set a Sunday deadline for a new online portal where eligible Ohioans could search for a vaccine location. The Columbus Dispatch reports that state officials say they’re still waiting on several pharmacies, hospitals and local health departments to sign into the system, but it should be ready soon. Ohio is currently inoculating people age 65 and older, school employees and people born with certain medical conditions that put them at risk of COVID-19 complications. Around 1.3 million people, or nearly 11% of the state's population have received the first dose of the two-shot regimen.
COVID-19 cases below 2K for a second day
For the second day in a row, the state reported under 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 in Ohio. Monday’s tally of just over 1,900 followed a report of 1,800 new cases Sunday. Hospitalizations ticked up from 64 Sunday to 79 Monday. And deaths jumped from 6 to 48 as the state continues to reconcile death data.
Coronavirus alters Ash Wednesday plans
Local churches are changing Ash Wednesday plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Catholic churches will avoid direct contact and instead of placing ashes on foreheads in the shape of a cross, ashes will be sprinkled on the tops of heads from a safe social distance. The Beacon Journal reports an Episcopal church in Akron gave parishioners kits to apply their own ashes during on online service tomorrow. Other churches are forgoing ashes this year entirely. Ashes given out on Ash Wednesday symbolize penitence and mortality as Christians begin observing the 40-day holy season of Lent.