“The number one concern of our teachers is that the buildings — in their opinion — are not safe to return to,” declared Phil Rumore, president, Buffalo Teachers Federation.
The Buffalo Public School District is working to begin to bring back some students for in-person learning by February 1.
But the Buffalo teachers union is threatening to take the district to court, saying buildings are not safe for teachers and students.
“The teachers have said — that the schools are not safe to open on February 1,” Rumore explained.
Rumore said according to a survey of his teachers, more than 20-city school buildings lack either proper PPE, cleaning staff or proper ventilation.
“11 of 16 reported the lack of custodial people. That's the key — is to have enough people to clean the buildings. 15 of 21 reported the lack of adequate ventilation in the buildings,” said Rumore. “But we have to make sure it's safe — so that the virus does not spread.”
But the district's chief operation officer, James Weimer, tells 7 Eyewitness News Buffalo schools have been working since last March to make sure all 60-school buildings will be safe.
“And as we receive data or feedback from principals or teachers or whomever it might be — we absolutely will address those issues and make sure that anything that is out of line is,” Weimer noted.
“I’m feeling more comfortable about our schools reopening for a small group of students February. 1,” replied Larry Scott, Buffalo School Board member.
Scott says the district is preparing a plan that would phase-in the return to in-person learning.
But not all of the district's more than 30,000 students would return at once.
“Our neediest students will be returning five days per week — if their parents choose to have them return — so those could be students with severe disabilities,” Scott responded.
City students in pre-k through second and high school seniors will be on a hybrid model and attend two days a week.
Rumore says he's concerned it's not safe and wants reassurances by this Friday.
“If the district looks at this and says they are still going to open in February, we'll be forced to go to court to prevent it,” Rumore remarked.
Weimer said the district has hand sanitizer dispensers in all buildings, have proper PPE and have been testing filtration systems.
He noted that some buildings have remained open for the district’s food distribution to food families and have remained safe.
Weimer said they’ve also worked to address hot water issues in some buildings.
“We have our engineers doing those types of things, running water, checking for hot water and all those types of things,” Weimer explained.
As school district works to phase in students into classrooms, the school district tells us they will be discussion of the reopen plan at Wednesday night's school board meeting.