Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash and other board members revealed more details about the decision during a Thursday morning news conference.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Public Schools announced plans to start a phased-in reopening that will begin February 1st.
The decision to be cautious about a switch to in-person learning was made during a school board work session Wednesday night.
“In light of the significant spike in coronavirus cases in our city and region, with more predicted for post-holiday spread well into January of 2021, the district believes that there are too many mitigating circumstances that would preclude a safe return to in-person learning before February for our students, their families, and our staff,” BPS said in a statement Wednesday night.
According to the BPS statement, February 1 represents the beginning of the second semester.
Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash and other board members revealed more details about the decision during a Thursday morning news conference. Cash said that the school board wants to see students in school, but after deliberation, they feel it is not safe to have students in-person.
“This isn’t normal times,” Cash said during the press conference. “And if we haven’t woken up now, we’ll never be woke.”
Cash expressed that Buffalo Public School’s medical advisors took part in the decision, and have advised the district that Erie County is struggling with COVID-19 and rates of the virus will get worse.
Cash said that many families have adjusted, at this point, to remote learning. He believes that remote learning is getting better.
“Some are struggling, that’s no question,” Cash added about families doing remote learning. “But that said, we can serve those families, we just need to know who they are.”
Cash said that the district is concerned with bringing in adult teachers in from across the county, to schools that have predominantly children of color, during a pandemic when health care disparities exist for people of color.
“This is the second largest school system in New York State,” Cash said, adding that it’s not fair to compare Buffalo Public Schools to other local school districts.
Cash also questioned why people feel it is safe to bring students in, if students’ parents are still working from home out of concern for the virus.
The superintendent added that very young children struggle without having a number of educators and engaging activities, and that he has recommended that pre-kindergarten through grade two should be among the highest need group to go back to schools first in February.
He also said that he will recommend high school seniors be included in the first group to return, so they don’t fall through the cracks and struggle to graduate.
They have an “abundance” of PPE and associated equipment needed to go back in February.
How much testing to be done when students return, will be dependent on what cluster zone Erie County is in at that point in February, Cash added.
Cash said that he’s hoping to do more testing than required, because he says he sees existing testing requirements as a low bar.