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COVID cases forcing some schools back into remote learning

Expert warns of setback for students of color
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Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 18:35:15-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The list of schools, school districts and colleges heading back into all remote learning is growing day-by-day.

A spiking number of positive test results, new COVID cases and a ‘yellow zone’ restrictions declared for much of Erie County are the reason.

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Outside the Cheektowaga Central School District.

Districts/Schools in Erie County:

  • Cheektowaga Central School District
  • Frontier Central School District
  • Saint Amelia School, Town of Tonawanda

Colleges, Erie/Niagara Counties:

  • Hilbert College, Hamburg
  • Niagara University

Hilbert College announcing Wednesday it will suspend all in-person instruction as of 5 p.m. Friday, November 13th. That’s ten days earlier than originally scheduled.

“This was not an easy decision,” Hilbert president Dr. Michael Brophy said. “It is my hope that quickly moving to remote instruction will help remove some of the stressful ambiguities we have all been facing as students, employees, and family members.”

Saint Amelia’s in the Town of Tonawanda also announcing Wednesday it will be switching to all remote learning.

The school’s principal issuing a statement pointing to a rise in community cases and two positive cases at the school.

The school board met Tuesday evening, voting unanimously to transition to remote learning on Monday, November 16 and remain remote until November 30.

“We have seen two positive cases of Covid within our building (one student and one staff member) with several other staff and students requiring quarantine due to close contact or while waiting for test results,” stated Scott Kapperman, principal.

The Cheektowaga Central School District said for the health and safety of all its students and staff it will be pivoting back to full remote learning Monday, November 16.

The Frontier School District in Hamburg is moving to all-remote learning for at least the next couple of weeks.

“As soon as we were designated as a yellow zone, we had parents emailing — calling — doing everything they could to basically say I’m not going to consent to have my child tested,” explained Richard Hughes, superintendent, Frontier Schools.

Superintendent Hughes said the yellow zone was not the only reason why the district shifted back to remote learning, but says the state's new rules that schools conduct testing complicates matters.

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Richard Hughes, superintendent, Frontier Schools, conducts Zoom interview.

“If it's 20-percent of our population — plus our staff — we're talking a thousand tests a week,” described Hughes. “Magnify that by schools that are similar size like us — Clarence, Lancaster, Orchard Park — that’s a lot of tests.”

Hughes said there have been a handful of positive test results from schools, but the numbers for quarantine and contact tracing are running high.

Hughes noted at one elementary school there was a positive test placing some students and 17 staffers into quarantine.

“At Cloverbank Elementary — we had two students come back positive from the same family, so the two different grade levels caused their cohort — their teacher to quarantine. Today we learned a teacher came back positive at that building,” said Hughes. “I have four to five spreadsheets I’m working on — that I’ve got to get to the Department of Health with the contact tracing with just a handful of cases — but the numbers — they're triple digits,

The Frontier superintendent also learned Tuesday that seven members of the district's transportation staff tested positive.

In the meantime, an education expert fearing all remote learning will continue to hand setbacks for Black and Brown students in urban and suburban districts.

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Marck Abraham, consultant, professor at Houghton College & SUNY Buffalo State.

“There is a concern with young people — especially our Black and Brown children — that already come into the school at a deficit,” commented Marck Abraham, professor and consultant.

Keeping students of color in remote learning is creating a setback for putting some students on a path to graduation.

“Black and Latino males that have some of the lowest test scores, lowest graduation rates — lowest attendance,”replied Abraham.

Abraham knows first hand about this issue. He is a former Buffalo school principal and now is a professor at Houghton College in Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State.

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Buffalo Public School family at home for remote learning.

Buffalo school students have remained fully remote all school year.

A recent study by the European Center for Disease and Prevention and Control said closing schools and switching to remote learning does not provide additional protection of a child's health.

Abraham said he agrees.

“There are several studies that have demonstrated that remote learning does not work,” remarked Abraham.

Abraham said school leaders need to think “out of the box” and partner with private businesses to create ways for getting kids back into classrooms.

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Buffalo school students have remained fully remote all school year.

The education expert said without in-school learning, urban students remain at a high risk for not succeeding.

“We’re setting up our young Black and Brown children to be a straight pipeline to prison and/or killed before a young age — we know that statistically,” said Abraham.