Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash told school board members Wednesday night he doesn't expect buildings to reopen for the rest of the school year and expects the district's fiscal situation to get much worse.
The school system has been dealing with trying to educate thousands of students who are home after Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced schools to close weeks ago. Cash also expressed frustration with Cuomo for not having a clearer, long-term plan in place for schools across the state.
Buffalo Public Schools are currently scheduled to reopen on April 20, along with the other schools in Erie County.
Buffalo's school year is scheduled to end on June 25, but with social distancing guidelines expected to last several more weeks, if not months, some schools and districts across the country are preparing for the strong possibility students may not return to class by then.
"You don't come back at the height of the epicenter. You then meantime, to have it slow down and do like in China and South Korea, where they're starting to actually see very few cases each day now. And, we're just a long way off from that," Cash said.
"So, in short, my wisdom, my experience, my sense of all of that is that I don't see us coming back this year. I don't see us coming back this year, not in any safe way and not in any thoughtful, reasonable way and If I think there is any degree of safety involved with, I won't deal with it. I won't tolerate it. I'll fight it."
The superintendent has to deal with supplying 45,000 breakfasts and lunches, thousands of students who don't have computer access for online schooling and difficulty reaching all those students who aren't in classes each day.
Cash is asking Albany for a quick $9 million for computer equipment to ease the access issue. But he said he expects Albany to make major cuts in school aid to city schools.
"We're lookling like a flat budget of about $785.7 million. But, they're going to cut that by $29.6 [million] and then try to restore it," he said.
Cash said he is also putting thousands of computers in closed buildings to good use.
"Organize them, while we're we're cleaning all of these classroom. I thought it would be a good time to do it all at once. And, IT now has a plan in play now that next week it will begin and the week after to try to deliver over 16,000 laptops and devices for our grades three through eight," Cash said.
Those computers have been used by students in those grades who aren't in the buildings. On the fly, the district, its administrators and its teachers have been learning how to educate thousands of students who are out somewhere in the ether, far from the standard classrooms.