Buffalo Public Schools Launch First Phase of Return to In-Person Learning
pictured:Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Cash makes a point. Board president Sharon Belton-Cottman is pictured left
School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash presided over a frigid outdoor press conference early Monday morning outside of PS#30 Frank A. Sedita School. The occasion was to mark the return of in–person learning for Buffalo students since school buildings were shut down in mid-March of last year amid the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Up beat, optimistic yet cautiously realistic, Dr. Cash assured parents of returning students city-wide that every precaution had been taken and was in place to insure the students safety.
“Safety and health is always our first priority,” he said. “We have not opened up until today because we take it very seriously.” The decision made to finally reopen he continued ,was “a science based decision …not a random decision.”
“Make no mistake. We’re going to have to be smart, we’re going to have to be tough, we’re going to have to be disciplined and controlled in order for this to work…
“This is journey by faith…We have lost hundreds of thousands of people, many of us loved, ones close to our hearts…so we understand the severity and the magnitude of what we’re dealing with. But if we work together we can turn the tide against this pandemic. We’re going to do it. We must do it. But we must do it together.”
-341 Days Ago-
“341 days ago was the last day we had our kids step into this building,” said PS#30 principal Rafael Perez who was on hand to welcome back returning students and staff. “But today our teachers are ready, our nurse is ready, our maintenance staff is ready, our nutrition staff is ready, parents and student are ready!”
School Board President Sharon Belton Cottman, keeping it real, assured that it was about children first.
“As I watch these scholars come into this building it brings tears to my eyes to think that anyone would try to interfere with the opportunity for these children to have a quality education,” she observed.
“What I would like to say to the parents, is thank you for entrusting us with your children …what I’d like to say to the community, you can be very grateful to Buffalo Public Schools that we did not open up before now, “ she said citing districts that opened “prematurely.” As a result she continued, there probably would have been a lot more cases in this city .”Don’t paint this picture any other way – tell the truth!”
The Buffalo Public School district, the second largest in the state, serves over 30,000 students. It was the last among local school districts to reopen.
The first phase of the in-school reopening includes children in grades Pre-K-2, High Needs Students and High School Seniors. Also returning are all teachers and staff.
Meanwhile virtual learning continues for the vast majority of students.
“Of all the students who were invited back only 20% are coming back today” noted Dr. Cash. He said the plan going forward is to continue to try to safely bring back as many students as they can . The district plans to decide by mid-month who will return next and when. He described fitting the students into buildings and classrooms while keeping them socially distanced, as an “engineering” challenge.
He also cited the unanticipated high cost of the undertaking -“tens of millions” – which was not in the budget before the pandemic.
-By any Means Necessary-
The union unsuccessfully sought to block the district from reopening because of health and safety concerns. Both the BPS and BTF have been asked to appear again before Judge Emilio Colaiacovo on Friday to present facts and testimony regarding the District’s decision to reopen at this time.
With the exception of the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF), all the unions were on board, with re-opening efforts said Dr. Cash. He added that he believed “the great majority of teachers want to come back.”
Vehemently defending public schools, Dr. Cash said that negative information and fear mongering of late has had an impact on the return of some students.
However, public schools, he declared “ are the most important resource we have in any community.”
“We’ll do whatever we have to do to continue to educate our children,” vowed Dr. Cash.
-By Staff Reporter
(Also accompanying Dr. Cash at the Feb. 1 press conference was West District Representative Jennifer Mecozzi, and several distinguished guests including Assembly majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Council President Darius Pridgen, and Say Yes Executive Director David Rust.)