COLUMBUS (WKBN) – The Ohio Education Association is encouraging schools in the state to suspend in-person instruction through the beginning of January.

The OEA is calling for Ohio districts to have students learn remotely or suspend classes altogether until January 11 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths “to allow for a statewide post-holiday quarantine period.”

However, it said the decision to go remote or suspend classes and extend the school year should be left up to the local school districts.

Essential programs like food delivery will continue regardless.

The OEA said its goal is to put education first and being able to operate safely is necessary for this to truly happen.

We understand the critical importance of in-person instruction and the personal connections between students, teachers and education support professionals in school buildings, but know that learning is impossible if fundamental health and safety needs are not met.

OEA has always advocated for strong public schools and recognizes the critical importance of our schools in meeting the academic, social, emotional, physical and mental health, and nutritional needs of over 1.7 million children and their families. Safe and equitable schools are the linchpin of thriving communities and a functioning economy. Operating schools safely, however, requires a commitment on the part of elected leaders and all Ohioans to make sacrifices necessary to truly put education first.”

Read more about the OEA’s COVID-19 recommendations

After this “statewide quarantine” period, the OEA said local health departments will need to sign off districts’ restart plans to ensure they’re following all of the safety requirements. If a district cannot get this sign-off, it’ll have to continue remote learning and suspend extracurricular activities.

The OEA said it “fully supports maintaining the authority of the governor and Ohio Department of Health to implement and enforce efforts to contain community spread.”

The education of our children must be a top priority in every community. State and local government should do whatever is necessary to slow the spread of this disease and diminish its impact on the delivery of instruction. These efforts should include mask wearing, limits on crowds, and expansion of testing and contact tracing programs.”

The OEA said it also supports “the closure of nonessential businesses and services that are known to increase the risk of community spread of the virus.”

It says school districts should not lay off staff, saying it’s committed to providing the resources needed to support them. The OEA is also calling on elected leaders to provide federal and state money for schools during this time.