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BPTO believes schools cannot safely open under current drafts of plans

Safely Back to School
Posted at 11:15 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 23:15:14-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization wants to see virtual learning for the start of the school year. The Executive Board gathered on the steps of City Hall Friday, just hours after Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said districts could reopen for in person learning.

"We want kids back in school, that's the truth, but we're not sending kids back to school if it's not safe," said Keith Jones, the BPTO's Transportation Chair.

The BPTO said four things need to happen before schools can reopen safely:

  • More funding
  • Plans for COVID-19 testing
  • Plans for contact tracing
  • A consensus based plan for reopening

BPTO Co-Chair Rachel Fix Dominguez said the state needs to provide clearer testing guidance.

“We do not believe that the testing should or can happen within the schools," she said. "We believe that that is the purview of the Department of Health at the New York state level and at the county level.”

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said he, and other superintendents in Erie County, will meet with Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gayle Burstein on Monday, to hear her plan for testing and contact tracing for the upcoming school year. The Erie County Health Department told 7 Eyewitness News there's no discussion for a separate contact tracing and COVID-19 testing system for BPS.

With in person learning comes transportation, the BPTO said an aide on every school bus is essential.

“We’re not putting our childern on a bus with just a driver, he has to make sure they’re socially distant, mask on their face, and then drive that’s crazy," said Jones.

Jones also raised concerns over how closely social distancing would be followed by older students riding NFTA buses and trains.

Cash said the district cannot complete reopening plans by itself and is collaborating with the BPTO. The BPTO said there will be about 20 meetings with stakeholders in the coming weeks.