BPS parents: "creative solutions" needed for 100% remote reopening plan

Parents call on district to help families struggling with poverty, violence, and the digital divide
Posted at 6:10 PM, Sep 01, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Leaders of several parent groups and community organizations gathered for a press conference calling upon the Buffalo Public School District (BPS) to work with them to develop "creative solutions" for parents when schools reopen with a 100% remote policy on September 8th.

The parents say not enough is being done to help families that will face hardship dealing with remote learning due to poverty, working parents, children with special needs, language barriers, eviction, violence, and lack of proper computer technology.

"This is a challenging situation. So, we need to figure out how we are going to do it together," said Jessica Bauer Walker, parent and president of BPS Community Health Worker Parent Association.

"We understand this community that they have other needs, like feeding their families, and getting them technology, like hotspots, so their children can do school work," added Rahwa Ghirtmatzion, parent and executive director of PUSH Buffalo.

The groups would like to see the school district open some of its buildings as 'hubs' where students living in unique, challenging situations could go to get their remote instruction safely.

Parent leaders also sent a letter to Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash outlining their concerns and requesting more "robust guidance and supports" for families dealing with difficult situations.

Remote learning is especially challenging on families where English is a second language. "It is hard because sometimes my parents don't understand," said Munazah Yunus, a 4th grade student at Waterfront School who is Burmese.

"There are a lot of challenges if we are learning from home," explained Shoaind Yunus, referring to his family that came from Burma.

Yunus said in addition to language barriers, many parents don't understand the technology used for remote learning which makes it hard for parents to check on whether their children are doing what they need to.

The former refugee and 4-year Buffalo resident believes it would be useful for the school district to offer sessions for parents so they can better understand the technology their children will be required to work with.

Buffalo Public Schools responded to the complaints saying it acknowledges that a 100% remote reopening will cause hardship for some families. But the district said it is committed to doing a "great deal" to support families and students in the schools.

You can read the full response from Buffalo Public Schools below:

Statement from Chief of Staff Dr. Darren Brown-Hall

September 1, 2020

The Child Healthcare Worker members’ statement asking the District to "do more" is non-specific and non-collaborative. The District has done, and will continue to do, a great deal to support the families and students in our schools. In a recent series of parent/community meetings (archived at Director of Multilingual Education, Nadia Nashir, outlined very clearly, in all of her meetings the supports we have in place for MLL families, as did our Director of Special Education, Kim Hoelscher, for Special Education families. We are currently surveying parents of Special Education students that receive related services; OT/PT and speech to see if they prefer to continue tele-therapy or would they like in-person. This way we are able to plan for possible in-person therapy at hub sites across the district.

Currently, device distribution is taking place, and teachers are actively participating in Professional Development today, tomorrow and Thursday to prepare for remote learning beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 8th.

Schools are finalizing schedules to send to students along with first day information. Teachers are loading lessons and assignments on Schoology, and staff members are updating parent portal with pertinent information. We are beginning the school year 100% remote, which may cause hardships for some families, however, there are resources in the community to alleviate some of the hardship. In the true spirit of the Education Bargain with Students and Parents, our parent organizations can assist and serve as a vehicle to align parents with the needed resources being offered in the community. Parent organizations, regardless of their membership size, can also share what resources and parental support they are offering, so we can truly feel as if "we're all in this together".