After more than 12 hours of negotiating with a federal mediator, Columbus City Schools and the Columbus Education Association reached a preliminary agreement early Thursday morning.

If CEA members vote to ratify the agreement, the strike will end and students will return to class on Monday.

According to the district, virtual learning will continue on Thursday and Friday so that teachers can spend those days “planning to prepare for a return to school on Monday.” Members of the CEA have been told not to report to the picket lines on Thursday morning.

According to the union, a CEA mass membership meeting is planned for the weekend, and the CEA Core Bargaining Team will recommend ratification, potentially ending the three-day strike. Following CEA’s ratification, the board will vote on the agreement.

“Without the unwavering support of parents, community members, organized labor, and local businesses in Columbus, this deal would not have been possible,” CEA President John Coneglio said. “It took a city-wide effort for CEA to win the schools that Columbus students deserve.” Teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and other education professionals are represented by the nearly 4,500-member union.

“While specifics cannot be disclosed at this time, the contract recognizes the Board’s commitment to improving student outcomes, the vital work of CEA members, and strengthening our learning environments,” said Columbus City Schools Board of Education President Jennifer Adair.

The meeting took place on the third day of the teachers’ strike and the first day of districtwide classes, as many students struggled to log into remote classes, attend class, or even picket alongside their teachers.

“We acknowledge the sacrifices made by students, parents, and teachers alike over the last three days as we fought for the schools Columbus students deserve,” said CEA Spokesperson Regina Fuentes. “Let history record that this strike was about students who deserved modern schools with heating and air conditioning, smaller class sizes, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music, and physical education.”

According to a copy of the unfair labor practice charge the school board filed against the union on Aug. 3, the union requested an 8% annual increase for three years at each step of the salary scale for 2022-23, 2023-24, and 2024-25 early in negotiations.

The 8% raise would bring the salary range from $53,286 to $116,293.

On the picket lines on Monday, CEA president John Coneglio refused to confirm to the Dispatch that the union is still seeking an 8% wage increase.

On August 18, the CEA and the district’s final bargaining session before the union decided to strike, the district offered a proposal that addressed some of the union’s demands.

Smaller class sizes in grades K-5 with classes of no more than 28 students, which would be reduced until the number reached 27; 30 days of paid leave for new parents; an agreement to hire 25 new full-time nurses, specialists, and other support staff; and a dedicated day for teachers to plan were all part of the agreement.

In terms of pay, the district offered the union a 3% raise per year for three years, bringing the salary range to $50,819 to $117,664.

With the exception of Mifflin Middle School, the offer also stated that the Board had contracted and/or committed funds to install air conditioning in all of the schools.

Mifflin has central air in about half of the building and is one of the schools in the district’s proposed facilities master plan that will be replaced by a new middle school.

According to district spokesperson Jacqueline Bryant, seven of the 13 buildings were scheduled to have HVAC upgrades completed on Wednesday, with six more scheduled to be completed in mid-to-late September.