The Buffalo school district is preparing for the possibility of an extended closure due to concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.
Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash announced late Friday afternoon schools will be closed for students on Monday, March 16. All staff will report.
Students will return to their schools on Tuesday and will receive prepared materials to bring home in case a decision to close schools for an extended period of time is made. By Wednesday, Cash expects to make a final decision in collaboration with city and state leaders as to whether an extended closure is required to contain the spread of the new virus.
Cash added that he would prefer to make the decision by Tuesday evening. He also said there are currently no students or staff members in self isolation, and that the district's decision will be determined by whether community transmission of the new virus comes to the greater Buffalo region.
"This is fluid right now, so we could resume school on [Wednesday] or we could go into an extended stay," he said.
Cash said district leaders have been meeting for three hours per day, every day, over the past two weeks to prepare for the situation. He also said Buffalo Public Schools is coordinating with other local school districts in order to take a regional approach to a closure.
Breakfast and lunch will be available every day at 21 community schools during any closure, the length of which Cash said would be determined by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The schools will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to provide that day's lunch and the next day's breakfast. If quarantines occur, transportation services will deliver food to students at their homes.
Cash also said teachers in grades K-12 have prepared lessons for all subjects. He said those lessons will be "refined" on Monday. High school juniors and seniors will have electronic devices for possible online learning.
"As you can imagine, in a large school system, there are a million issues that have to be addressed and made sure that they are done right in order for this to occur," Cash said.
Cash said Spectrum and Verizon have offered assistance to facilitate online learning for students without internet access. Verizon Wireless is providing around 2,000 mobile hotspots, which will be distributed in community schools.
There are still no positive coronavirus tests in Erie County, as of Friday. The superintendent said the district continues to emphasize public health guidelines, including frequent hand-washing, reduced movement and social distancing.
WBFO's Nick Lippa contributed to this report.
Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash speaking with the media to discuss the steps that are being taken to address concerns of COVID-19 https://t.co/ujNLcRCXd5
— WBFO (@WBFO) March 13, 2020