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Buffalo Public School district hosts parent forum ahead of return to classrooms

The teacher's union has safety concerns
Buffalo Public Schools
Posted at 11:34 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 23:34:38-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Parents and caregivers had questions for the Buffalo Public School district, before many of their children go back into the classroom.

On Monday, grades Pre-K-2, high school seniors, and those with the highest needs can return to buildings. Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash called it a "milestone" day.

A common question parents had was regarding COVID-19 testing. Cash said it will continue despite the lifting of Erie County's cluster zone. Testing is not required for schools outside orange and red cluster zones, according to the state's website.

“It is my recommendation to our student support services department under Dr. Tonja Williams, and to all of the nurses, and Dr. Kuo agrees with me, and he's actually strongly recommending it," Cash said. "That we continue to stay at least through February, stay on course with testing at that 20% level that we had," Cash said.

Parents also asked what happens if a school has a positive COVID-19 case.

“A lot will depend on the contact tracing information, and how prevalent it is, and how many people have been in touch with that positive case in a school," Cash said.

He said decisions may be made on a classroom, school, or district wide level. The district said one case does not mandate closing a school.

Some other answers to parent questions include:

  • At least one nurse must be in every building
  • Devices need to be brought to school everyday
  • There will be no mask breaks, except for eating or drinking and Pre-K nap time

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said the union still has safety concerns. In a survey the union sent out, he said about 30 schools responded saying there was not enough warm water and a lack of space in classrooms. He said there are also concerns over supplies, and protocol for teachers traveling between different classrooms or between different buildings.

“Basically its sanitation, the availability of correct amount of space, and also the protocols that have to be used in the buildings,” Rumore said,.

Cash said his staff has been resolving issues it becomes aware of right away.

"As a district we have been preparing our facilities to reopen since school closed last March. The Executive Team meets regularly with the Superintendent. The BTF issues have been largely resolved. The Superintendent and the BTF President have talked and are working to solve any outstanding issues and find common ground to reopen on Monday, February 1st.

The district has an ample supply of PPE and cleaning supplies. The BPS has developed cleaning and sanitization protocols according to CDC and ECDOH standards that will keep our students and staff safe as they return to in person instruction."
Elena Cala, BPS Spokesperson

The BTF and the district will meet Thursday.

"We've sent a number of questions and issues to the district," Rumore said. "What we would like to have tomorrow is, in writing, all the teachers of the schools would be informed that the concerns they have raised have been corrected and how. Also, we would like the answers to some of the other issues that we've raised with the district."

Rumore said the union is prepared to go to court if its concerns are not adequately addressed.

"As to the hypothetical legal action, we are prepared to comment if and when it occurs," said Cala in the statement.

Cash said any decision on when more grades could return won't be made until after February break.

The full Facebook live event can be found here.

School specific plans can be found here.