Buffalo city schools closed to students Monday as district outlines coronavirus plans

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo Public Schools announced Friday the district is not closing but beginning to prepare for if city schools should due to coronavirus, outlining plans for students to spend up to three weeks out of school.

Students will not have to report to schools Monday but staff will. On Tuesday, both students and staff should report to begin receiving learning education materials for home use.

Superintendent Kriner Cash said educators have been preparing for two weeks for what they believe is inevitable, “something we haven’t ever experienced before, quite like this, to be able to do what we are able to do to protect our children.”

Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo is still leaving the decision to stay open or close up to individual school districts, a decision Cash says he does not agree with.

Cuomo says an extended period of time would create a huge hardship on working families, and while Cash says he recognizes that hardship, the district-by-district decisions get confusing,

“It doesn’t help with having these different choices and decisions,” Cash said.

Instead of closing schools statewide, Cuomo has waived the 180 days of instruction requirement so that districts can more easily choose to close without sanctions.

“If the kids are home, the parents are home. Well if the parents are home, who is going to be working in my hospitals? Which is the critical system in all of this,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says most families don’t have or can’t pay for childcare and that thousands of families rely on school for their kids’ breakfast and lunch.

“How do you get all those meals to all those kids when they’re not in school? What distribution method do you have?” Cuomo said.

Cash says Buffalo Public Schools are preparing for exactly that.

He says all community schools would be open from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. daily in the event of a district-wide closure.

“The most efficient way to do it will be to come and have grab bags, grab and go at these community center outlets, that’s one option,” Cash said.

But if families can’t get there for any reason, the district will find a way to deliver those meals home.

Verizon wireless is working with BPS to make sure every student can have internet access.

“We do recognize that there is a gap in terms of internet access, and so we believe the 2,000 hotspots that we are going to receive next week will help bridge that gap allowing with the partnership and offerings that Spectrum is providing to the community,” said Myra Burden, the school district’s chief technology officer.

Cash said taking care of students with medical needs is a priority, too, and is working on the best way to manage their care if schools close long-term, including the possibility of keeping one school open for those students in particular.

He said he’s also working to ensure that non-essential personnel who might no longer be reporting to schools would still get paid.

On Tuesday evening, Cash will consult with the state education department on what to do next.

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