BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “It is imperative that they get these kids back in school immediately,” remarked Chris Scanlon, South District, Buffalo Common Council.
As many school districts in Erie County’s orange zone are preparing to reopen for some in-person learning next week, the Buffalo Public School District has yet to reveal any plans for a future turn to the classroom.
Scanlon is demanding answers on a reopen plan from the the city school district.
“I have serious concerns regarding the buffalo public schools current distance learning model and eventual reopening plan,” wrote Scanlon.
Scanlon wrote a letter to Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash saying while other districts are returning for some in-person learning, it does not appear to be a priority in Buffalo.
“I’m an elected official — I haven't heard anything about a plan, parents haven't heard anything about a plan. You have teachers working in schools who have been told try to figure out your own return plan,” remarked Scanlon.
Buffalo School students haven't been inside their school buildings since last March and now some school parents are seeking answers as to when in person learning will begin.
A PS School #81 parent sent 7 Eyewitness News an email from the school.
It states instructional materials for students are ready for pick-up next week and they're hopeful the materials will last into February.
The School 81 parent did not want to be identified, but says she wants to know when her son can return to the classroom.
However, another Buffalo schools parent, Keith Jones, said with COVID cases spiking, he does not believe students should return.
“Everybody is thinking that we don't want our children back in school — that's a false narrative,” declared Jones.
Jones's daughter is a senior at Bennett high's innovation school.
“Right now — I don't feel safe sending my daughter back in no buildings right now without testing,” Jones explained.
Jones is also member of the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization.
“We want our children back in school — but the kids can’t be sacrificial lambs,” Jones said.
Jones said a lot of work still needs to be completed to make schools safe.
“Our buffalo public schools are not equipped, vented — with the proper ventilation or things of that nature to put these kids back in school in a safe environment,” remarked Jones.
Jones said the city district can not be compared to other suburban school districts that are reopening.
He said Buffalo schools has approximately 30,000 students and some buildings have up to 6,000 students, more than some districts entire school population.
But some parents and Scanlon said too many students are going to slip away academically, socially and emotionally if they don’t return for some in-school learning.
“You can’t keep these kids out of school for a year, a year and a half,” Scanlon noted. “But I’m even more fearful about the students whose parents aren’t engaged — you know if there’s abuse taking place — neglect taking place.”
The school district declined our request for an interview, but issued a following statement in response to Scanlon’s letter.
"The Buffalo Public Schools has received Council Member Scanlon's letter. BPS District Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs Dr. Will Keresztes has reached out to Council Member Scanlon to discuss his concerns and inform him of the District’s work on this matter."
It said a “reopen update” will be provided at Wednesday night’s Buffalo Board of Education work session.
The district said Keresztes will meet with the Common Council December 15.
Buffalo school board member Larry Scott also declined our request for an interview saying board members want to “hold off speaking to the media” until after Wednesday’s meeting.
Still, Scanlon is critical of superintendent Cash and his surrounding administration, demanding accountability on a reopen plan.
“I just quite frankly can’t understand it. The amount of money that is spent on administrators within the Buffalo Public Schools someone should be able to figure this out,” replied Scanlon.