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Renewed calls to get students back in classrooms five-days a week

"My kids need to be back in the school building"
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Posted at 4:57 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:16:31-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — There are renewed calls to get students back into classrooms five-days a week.

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Parents & students rallied calling for five-day a week of in-school learning.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for schools to reopen, stating “schools must reopen.”

But in the Buffalo Public School District only a small portion of students have returned for two-days a week of in-person learning at city school buildings in a hybrid model, and there’s no word yet on when the rest of the students will begin to move back into classrooms.

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Outside Buffalo Public School #81 in north Buffalo.

“We’re losing our minds in the house,” laughed Jasmine Hardy, Buffalo school parent.

Hardy described how tough it is to continue remote learning for her children at their home.

Hardy says her 15-year-old daughter and her six-year-old son, where not part of Buffalo Public school students who returned for two days a week of in-person learning earlier this month.

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Jasmine Hardy, Buffalo school mom, in a Zoom interview.

“My oldest, she’s so depressed,” Hardy explained. “My kids are not doing well. My kids are hands on learners and looking at a screen all day is not getting it.”

Only pre-k-through second grade, high school seniors and some students with special needs are back.

But her son, James, who is autistic was not allowed to return yet.

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Jasmine Hardy's son is a Buffalo school student with autism.

“My son fights us everyday,” replied Hardy.

“We need to be careful. We still need to be cautious,” remarked Larry Scott, member, Buffalo School Board.

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Larry Scott, member, Buffalo School Board, during a Zoom interview.

Only about 7, 000 of the 34,000 city school students are attending two days a week in-school right now, but school board member Scott says he's hoping third and fourth graders will be able to return some time in March.

The district issued the following statement in regards to working toward the return of more students:

“We will continue to follow our plan of bringing students back in a phased, systematic, safe, and disciplined approach. Our Health Advisory Council recommendations based on up-to-date science, and CDC and NYSDOH guidelines will be influencing factors.

Administrator recommendations about the next groups to return to physical buildings are coming in this week, following a thorough academics & operations review of the Phase 1 cohort of students, who returned to physical buildings on February 1st.”

Buffalo Public Schools

“In bringing back kids in tight buildings with large class sizes and with a transportation system that is very complex,” explained Scott.

Western New York Students First rallied in downtown Buffalo Sunday calling for students to return five-days a week to in-person learning.

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WNY Students First rallied in downtown Buffalo Sunday.

They are also calling on the state to drop the six-foot rule in classrooms that prevents more students from attending.

Tarja Parssian is a parent organizer.

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Tarja Parssian is a parent organizer, WNY Students First, in a Zoom interview.

“We’re actually finding that schools all over the country are going back with a mask and under six feet and it's fine and it's safe,” replied Parssian. “It’s also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and Harvard School of Public Health.”

Parssian noting that with a majority of Buffalo school students still all remote, something needs to change.

The group also called on the Erie County Health Department to advocate to the state to remove the six foot rule.

“It really does need to come for Dr. Zucker at the state department of health, as well as, I believe, the education department and ultimately Cuomo,” declared Parrssian.

The Erie County Health Department reminds the public it does not establish school safety guidelines.

In an email, spokesperson Kara Kane said that the state health department has not given ECDOH “authorization to change requirements set in last summer’s p-12 school reopening guidance.”

Kane also noted questions regarding the six-feet distancing requirement between desks “should be director to NYSDOH or NYSED, not our department.”

School board member Scott says removing the six-foot rule seems “arbitrary” because it's not just a mandate for schools, but businesses as well.

“If the state lifted that six feet apart rule, would that change where the city district stands?”, Buckley asked.

“We would have to take that into consideration,” answered Scott. “

The city school board holds its next working session with the district the first week of March.

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Jasmine Hardy's children.

“The right choice for me and my kids — my kids need to be back in the school building — they learn better that way,” Hardy noted.