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Buffalo School leaders say goal is to keep schools open

"We're expect to return on January 3"
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Posted at 4:31 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 17:55:49-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “Buffalo Public Schools need to stay open,” declared Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent, Buffalo Public School District.

Buffalo Public School leaders say the goal is to keep schools open after the holiday break.

“As of now, today, we're expect to return on January 3,” declared Cash. “We want to come back. We expect to come, today, at this point, but we will watch this very closely over the next two weeks.”

Dr. Cash meeting with reporters at City Hall after issuing a letter Monday to school families telling students and staffers to bring home all electronic devices over the winter holiday break.

The district leaders say they are being cautious as there is expected to be a COVID spike in January.

Cash saying he expects January will be “tough” and wants students and staffers to be ready to go remote if needed.

But city school parent Jessica Bauer Walker says it sparked a great deal of concern among parents fearing students will head back into remote learning.

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Buffalo School parent Jessica Bauer Walker

“When I saw that letter, when that came through, it was almost like a trauma response — like oh no — not again — I don't think I can go through this again,” remarked Bauer Walker.

But the district says it will be watching closely the winter surge of COVID and the spread of the Omicron variant.

The district's medical director Dr. Dennis Kuo says he expects a quick spread in January.

“My advice is that we are committed to absolutely keeping the schools open. We will continue to watch where everything is because this is a highly rapidly changing situation,” explained Dr. Kuo.

Dr. Kuo also noted the transmission of cases is not occurring within the city schools.

“The level of virus in the community dictates the level of risk in any school setting,” explained Dr. Kuo.

School leaders, like Buffalo School Board President Lou Petrucci insisting their goal is to keep students in the classrooms.

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Buffalo School Board President Lou Petrucci.

“That is our goal. Our goal, our objective from the board perspective is to keep our schools open, to keep our children in school,” stated Petrucci.

Still the superintendent insists all students and staff take their devices home when they leave for winter break Thursday with plans to return January 3, 2022.

“And then I would to see before we get back, on January 3 — all of our families and staff have to be tested,” Cash noted. “That would be helpful. But that needs to start soon. We only have two weeks before we come back. Can we get tested before we come back?”

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Jessica Bauer Walker in a Zoom interview.

“I can't imagine the complexity of of requiring everybody to get tested before they come back into schools — you know — 30,000 plus students and then all of the staff — I can't imagine the complexity of that,” replied Bauer Walker.

The superintendent says not enough 5 to 12 year olds in the city district have been vaccinated.

And while many districts are supporting Test to Stay, Cash says he doesn't have enough information to know how it would for Buffalo.

Cash, in referring to the pilot program for Test to Stay underway in the Grand Island Central School District, says he has many questions about the program, especially to cover the approximately 31,000 city school students.

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Dr. Kriner Cash.

“No one really explained it where I really understand it for the numbers of tests I would need to do it,” Cash noted.

Cash says while the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is also offering more tools, that will soon include take home text kits, he questions if it will be enough for his large district.

“How many tests does a family get?” Cash questioned. “How many tests will Buffalo Public get as we try to mitigate and help students to stay in school?”

Cash said he needs answers from the ECDOH.

Cash said no decision will be made until next Tuesday when they reevaluate the situation after consulting with his health leaders and the ECDOH.