BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “We know that children are in a mental health crisis — parents can barely survive,” remarked Jessica Bauer Walker, mother, president, Buffalo Public Schools Community Health Worker Parent Association.
Buffalo Public School mothers and caregivers say they are frustrated, tired and want change. They appeared at a news conference Wednesday to call on the district to hear their struggle and offer support.
“I kind of feel sometimes like I’m in jail — literally speaking — I'm in jail,” declared Maribel Irizarry, mother and grandmother.
The district has conducted a very slow reopen process. There are only about 7,000 of the 33,000 students attending in-person learning two days a week. The rest remain at home.
Irizarry is working full-time, from home, while trying to supervise five children.
“I’m the lunch lady, the gym teacher — I’ve become it all,” said Irizarry.
Khadijah Hussein says she represents the multi-lingual community who desperately need help and the district isn't listening.
“You're not seeing them because we're the voice of them because they do not understand the language e to come and sit in these meetings themselves,” Hussein explained.
Hussein said many in the multi-lingual community don’t understand that some students were allowed to return two-days a week to class.
“Could you just imagine these parents that don't sit in these meetings that don't understand whats going on,” remarked Hussein. “So how many parents have students like that right now — their children were supposed to go back but they do not know.”
For some of these Buffalo school moms, they say their child has not stepped in a classroom in a full year.
“My daughter has gone from being A straight a student to a failing student over the course of the year, explained Walker.
Walker said they are calling on the district to be inclusive.
The women are already part of the reopen committees. But walker says they are not part of any decision making.
“If our children aren't in school certain days — what supports can be put in place — a lot of us have not been able to take advantage of virtual learning centers or the food program — we can't leave work and pick up those meals for our kids,” Walker said.
7 Eyewitness News asked Walker if the mothers are considering a lawsuit against the district.
Walker says they are not ready to file a lawsuit, as some parents are doing in other districts.
“We haven't gotten to the point of a lawsuit. We are here in the spirit of collaboration. We have tried to air our concerns in every way possible,” replied Walker.
We reached out two Buffalo School Board members, Larry Scott and Dr. Ann Rivera.
“What do you say to those moms?,” asked Buckley.
“I hear the concern. I hear the struggle and we have engaged parents and staff, teachers — ongoing since last summer,” replied Scott.
“I want them to know that I understand their struggles and I also want them to know that we all want our students to be back in school and we need them to be back in school safely,” Rivera responded.
Parent Dr. Wendy Mistretta says it would be helpful if the district could at least tell them how many students could fit in a classroom, safely, at eight, six or three feet apart.
“Even if we don't have the dates — it would be so helpful for our families to know that if this happens that's what the district is going to do,” Mistretta stated.
Board member Scott agreed, there needs to be clarification on that topic.
“And we were told that this could be a difference of fitting three to four more students in a classroom if we reduce from eight to six feet,” Scott said.
Scott said unfortunately the district is “just not there yet" when it comes to reopening to full, five-day a week, in-person learning. He said he realizes some parents don't want to hear that.
But Scott he pointed out that there is a rising number of COVID cases. Tuesday the city district reported 20-new cases, 17 were students.
For families in need of assistant, they can call the Buffalo Public School District at 716-816-7100.