Buffalo school officials explain decision to open year fully online

Aug 20, 2020

Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says the decision Wednesday night by school board members to open the new year with an all-remote format was "extraordinary, inclusive, systematic and thoughtful." He and school board members stood outside City Hall Thursday morning to further explain the decision and field questions about other preparations.

Both the superintendent and board members insist the move to continue an all-online model, one that went in place last March, was not a hasty decision. Dealing with not thousands but tens of thousands of students, they stated, required a more careful process.

Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, members of the Board of Education, other school officials and community partners stand outside City Hall Thursday morning, explaining the decision made late Wednesday to begin the new school year with an all-online model.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"It took additional days, and we're proud of the timeline that the superintendent had put together," said board president Sharon Belton-Cottman. "Contrary to what the public belief is, Buffalo Public Schools was functioning all summer long. Our board members were working. Our staff was working. We have never turned our backs on our children, nor will we."

Among the concerns raised were for the full distribution of  computers. Higher grades have been accommodated but Dr. Cash says work is now underway to make sure younger grades are adequately equipped.

"That is already underway, the redistribution of devices," he said. "We distributed in the spring, as you know, to most of our students, (grade) 3 through 12. The only group we did not distribute to, and had not had enough resources to do it, was pre-K to 2. We now have closed that gap."

Meals will again be distributed, twice a week, for underprivileged students. Dr. Cash says 2.9 million meals have already been distributed to date among 28 school sites. All school sites will be open on day one, he said. Though the distributions will be twice a week, Cash says the amount of food given out will be for all five days of the school week.

Preparations also include consideration for students learning English as a second language.

"And that is why we've invested in a lot of applications, like Talking Points. We have contracts with International Institute and Journey's End," said Nadia Nashir, Assistant Superintendent for Multilingual Studies. "We have hired six multilingual cultural resource specialists that are on call all day."