Buffalo announces return dates for remaining virtual elementary & high school students

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash on Thursday announced return-to-school dates for remaining elementary and high schoolers who opt for in-person instruction.

High school students will return to classes on Monday, April 26. Elementary students (up through eighth grade) will return two weeks later on Monday, May 10.

Cash said more details will be provided at the April 14 board meeting. These changes are part of Phase 3 of 4 of the district’s reopening plan; students began returning on Feb. 1, and Phase 2 began two weeks ago.

This is welcome news for district parents like Jessica Bauer Walker, who has advocated for kids to be in school as much as possible is safe and equitable ways.

“Kids need to be learning, they need the social support, they need the interaction with their peers,” she said.

Bauer Walker is also the president of the BPS Community Health Worker Parent Association. She has been fighting for parents to be more involved in decision-making so that the district can more thoughtfully consider how reopening decisions affect family dynamics.

“We’re relying on parents more than ever to be the primary educators of children, and even students who are going back, it will still only be a few days a week, it will still be toward the end of the school year, so it’s really important that we build stronger partnerships and collaboration between the district and the parents,” she said.

Mom Whitney Crispell opted her children out until now. She said she’s appreciated the district’s slow reopening, and now she’s finally ready to send her two young children back. They’ll get seven weeks of in-person hybrid learning before the end of this school year.

“I also know that a lot of the teachers in the district are vaccinated at this point, and the staff, which makes us feel better,” she explained. “So we opted out, but things have changed enough where we feel comfortable doing the hybrid model.

A BPS spokesperson said Dr. Cash would not do an interview on the next phases of reopening, saying he will discuss the matter at the next Board of Education meeting.

Cash also noted the district is still recovering from a recent ransomware attack and mentioned COVID-19 rates are rising again.

Cash’s full statement is below:

Covid-19 infections are rising again across the region, a more contagious variant is spreading, and we are working to recover from a malicious cyberattack. Those significant challenges notwithstanding, I have directed staff to bring back all remaining high school opt-in students on April 26th. Remaining elementary opt-in students will come back on May 10th. We will discuss further details at our April 14th Board Work Session and defer to updated recommendations from our Medical Director and local health experts.

The decision to move forward with reopening despite rising COVID cases does not sit well with Buffalo Teachers Federation president, Phil Rumore.

“We already know that things are starting to go the wrong way. It’s very disappointing. I have great respect for the superintendent, and the decisions he’s made so far, but I don’t know what’s happened here,” said Rumore.

Rumore e-mailed News 4 a letter the BTF sent district officials highlighting the union’s concern that more than 30 COVID cases were confirmed among students and staff during a recent two-day period. Some of those people where virtual, and some were in school buildings.

“I think they’ve been very cautious about bringing students back, and…one of the things I don’t think anyone will realize is how many lives that has saved because you’ll never,” Rumore said. “But this decision, in light of the fact of what we’ve just sent to the Superintendent and the Board over the last couple of days is shocking.”

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