“This is a Journey by Faith”

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 Return-

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.)