Majority of Buffalo teachers reject district’s reopening plan, say it’s unsafe


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Out of the more than 2,500 Buffalo Public Schools teachers, 70% say they oppose the district’s reopening plan stating it does not provide for “safe and healthful conditions under which to carry out professional duties.”

According to the Buffalo Teachers Federation, teachers are directing the union to pursue legal action against plans and requirements that they have to report to schools during 100% virtual instruction.

The 70% of teachers also say the plan does not provide for quality education for students and does not conform to the state and federal laws and regulations.

BTF officials say 30%, or 789 teachers, support the virtual reopening plan.

President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation Phil Rumore released this statement on Monday:

“Buffalo teachers, who overwhelmingly want to be with their students when schools open for in-person instruction, want to ensure that students, parents, school staff and the community are not put at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. The District has not met the required State and Federal guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, parents, teachers and community. Yet, although instruction is 100% virtual, it is mandating all teachers to report to their schools/sites two to three times a week; thereby, endangering their, their family’s and the community’s health. We can not allow unsafe teaching and learning conditions to endanger the safety and health of our students, parents, teachers and community; therefore, we will immediately pursue legal action. If a school/site can demonstrate that it meets all the safety requirements and has appropriate safety protocols in place, we are willing to enter into an agreement that would allow teachers to voluntarily teach from their classroom. As always, any such agreement would have to be approved by teachers. The District has shown no willingness to answer, in writing, the teachers’ many questions that were sent to it. We will continue to work to ensure that our schools have safety protocols in writing in place, to ensure that our students, parents, school staff and community are not put at risk of infection by the COVID 19 virus”

News 4 received a statement from BPS General Counsel Nathanial Kuzma in response to the teachers union. He says:

The District is disappointed but not surprised by the Buffalo Teachers Federation tactics (BTF).  It has been clear from the beginning that the BTF was not going to be a solution oriented collaborative partner with the District. Similar to the successful reopening of Central Office, the District’s School Reopening plan follows all required health and safety measures as designated by the Center for Disease Control, the Erie County Health Department, and our Health Advisory Committee of experts. Without students in the building, the district is confident that teachers will be safe instructing students from their classrooms, and students will receive the vital and meaningful instruction that teachers are responsible for. 

Troy Licastro is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here.

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