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Buffalo Teachers Federation plans on seeking legal action, saying Buffalo Schools are unsafe

"What we are asking for is a temporary restraining order"
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Posted at 6:29 PM, Jan 28, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Teachers Federation is threatening legal action in order to prevent Buffalo Public Schools reopening on February 1st.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News

All Buffalo teachers miss their students and want to be back with them; however, they want to be confident that the teaching and learning conditions are and remain safe for their students, parents, staff, community and themselves. We have sent information to the district in an effort to work with them to resolve serious health and safety concerns. Some health concerns have been addressed; however, the teachers at each school/site have not received written assurance that the safety and health issues they have raised at their school/site have been addressed. To ensure that our schools/sites provide for a healthful and safe return, the BTF will seek court action to prevent the unsafe return of students and staff until such time as the serious safety and health issues have been an remain corrected.
Buffalo Teachers Federation
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Phil Rumore, BTF president, discusses plans for legal action.

Friday morning Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore told 7 Eyewitness News the union is having court papers filed electronically in Albany Friday.

"What we are asking for is a temporary restraining order," Rumore stated. "Until such a time as an impartial arbitrator can rule on the merits because we feel that it presents a danger," stated Rumore. "We did not get satisfactory answers from the district as to the buildings were all safe."

Rumore says the union — representing more than 38-hundred Buffalo Public School teachers — is asking for a temporary restraining order to stop Buffalo Public Schools from reopening for in-person learning Monday.

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Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore.

“Unfortunately, we have to go to court to prevent what we believe would be serious and irreparable harm to our staff students and parents,” Rumore remarked. “What we are asking for is a temporary restraining order until such a time as an impartial arbitrator can rule on the merits because we feel that it presents a danger.”

Rumore met with the district but says he’s not convinced the buildings are safe. he says some have windows that don't open — others have poor air ventilation.

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Outside BPS #3.

“We don’t have warm water in all of the bathrooms. I just heard that some of the plumbers will be working in some of the schools over the weekend — that means there are still schools without warm water,” noted Rumore. “Another school they went to — the windows do open — but you have to be the ‘Hulk’ to be open it.”

Rumore said even right across from the BTF headquarters at Porter and Niagara, at the BPS #3 D’Youville Porter Campus, there's classroom problems.

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BPS #3 D’Youville Porter Campus.

“The superintendent went over there the other day to check it out. Well as it turns out they're now having to order these thousand dollar air purifiers for three of the rooms that are over there because they are unsafe,” Rumore explained.

“I investigate — I have staff look into it and if it's so we resolve it,” stated Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent.

During a session Wednesday night, parents and caregivers raised questions to the district before some students within Buffalo Public Schools return to in-person learning on February 1st.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Cash spoke at the session, aiming to reassure teachers and school families — buildings are ready for their return.

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Buffalo Schools Superintendent Cash speaking at public session.

“This is has not been random decision making, we said at the very outset when we had to shut down on March 18, 2020, that we would make sure that science guided our decision making,” Cash remarked. “We would make sure that we spoke often with a health advisory council.”

“I think that we are still in very dangerous time as far as the pandemic goes,” declared Eve Shippens, science teacher, East High School.

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Eve Shippens, science teacher, East High School, in Zoom interview.

“Eve, how are you feeling how are you feeling about the return to classrooms?"

“I am not really feeling good about us returning to classrooms on Monday,” replied Shippens.

Shippens said she is concerned about air-flow issues in old, city school buildings..

“I’m lucky — I’m in a classroom with windows that open but i do now that in some buildings they don't have windows in all the classrooms,” Shippens explained.

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Eve Shippens, science teacher, East High School.

Both Shippens and Rumore say they don't agree with the district asking all teachers to report to their buildings when only pre-k through second grade and high school seniors are the only ones initially returning.

“With a smaller pool of kids in school — all teachers don’t need to be there. You’re going to have 50 to 100 teachers report — what sense does that make?” Rumore questions.

“I also think it’s unnecessary. One of my biggest concerns is I have a lot of colleagues with pre-existing health conditions that put them at risk,” described Shippens. “We are in a difficult position and I know a lot of teachers have filed for medical leave.”

If the court denies the union’s request, teachers will be required to report to the school buildings. Rumore says if they don’t, that could be considered a strike.

Earlier this month, Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore cited a survey of his teachers, who say more than 20-city school buildings lack either proper PPE, cleaning staff or proper ventilation.

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash sent the following letter to Buffalo Public Schools families

Buffalo Public Schools open on Monday, February 1st for grades Pre-K-2, high school seniors, and those with the highest needs.