Parent group reacts with favor to remote learning, teachers union wants to see plan

"I think we have to follow the science"
Posted at 7:24 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 19:25:43-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — "This was a very, very, extraordinary, inclusive, systematic, and thoughtful process that yielded the decision that we are sharing with you today," declared Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent, Buffalo Public School District.

Buffalo Public Schools will return for the new school year with 100-percent remote learning.

Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent, Buffalo Public Schools.

The superintendent, board members and parents groups lined the steps of City Hall Thursday morning to explain the decision.

The Buffalo Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday night’s board session after Buffalo Schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash made the recommendations.

It was a tough decision for the district, but leaders say they did it to protect the lives of 33,000 city school kids.

“The decisions that we make at this table — for this district — equates to life or death,” remarked Sharon Belton-Cottman, president, Board of Education.

“If we do not do the right thing for children we can not save their lives." Superintendent Dr. Cash said effects of the virus on children is “unsettling” to him.

“And we really know even less about how it works in children who are black and brown and families and communities who are black and brown — which is 83-percent of our populations,” noted Cash.

"I think that this decision is in the best interest of all of the children across the city of Buffalo,” stated Rachel Fix Dominguez, co-chair, Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization.

Rachel Fix Dominguez, co-chair, Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization.

Students will learn virtually with their teachers and work on independent projects — all from home.

Neal Dobbins is executive director of Most Valuable Parents. Dobbins noted that parent engagement will be a key factor in making remote learning a success.

“We believe the greatest responsibility will be on the parents and the students because we have to get those children ready for remote learning. They have to take this as serious as they do going to the classroom,” Dobbins said. "It’s got to be a joint effort - this is a partnership."

Buffalo school teachers will work in the classrooms two to three days a week.

“Looking very much forward to when they also come back into the work environment,” Cash remarked.

“There have been no discussions with us about how they are going to implement this plan,” stated Phil Rumore, president, Buffalo Teachers Federation.

Once again, the leader of the Buffalo Teachers Federation is accusing the district of not including teachers in the planning process.

Rumore tells 7 Eyewitness News he has not seen the plan as of Wednesday. Rumore said he agrees with the all remote decision, but the “devil will be in the details.”

Phil Rumore, president, Buffalo Teachers Federation.

“We want to work with the district — once we see a copy of the plan — we will give them the concerns of the teachers and try to work with them,” Rumore noted.

The district will make sure every student has a device for on-line learning. Superintendent Cash says volunteers will bring them to homes if necessary.

"All of our students will have devices as long as we can get it to them,” said Cash. “Give us the addresses — we'll deliver.”

The district will also continue serving meals, but this time it will open all of its 60 school buildings where meals will be distributed two days a week with meals for the entire week.

Since March, when the district closed, it has served 2.9 million meals to school families at 28-school sites.

The district will reevaluate the remote learning situation in about 4 to 6 weeks, but the superintendent says any decision to reopen would be based on science.

"The work that needs to happen when we do go towards and progress towards a hybrid model and then, perhaps with God willing, a full in-person model maybe sometime this year," Cash said. “But science will dictate that — we will follow the science.”

The district said it would consider special needs and younger children being brought back first in the future, if safe.

7 Eyewitness News asked the superintendent about how the district is working on school buildings after there were reports of some not having hot water.

“We’re moving forward every day to ensure our school buildings are in tip top shape,” responded Cash.

Teachers must report September 1. The first day of remote learning will be September 8th.