|Date:||January 14, 2021|
By Orlando Dickson
Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. We also include information from Council meetings related to our Community Agenda items.
This week, the Common Council held five committee meetings, but our attention will focus on the Community Development meeting. The Community Development Committee focuses on matters pertaining to work or improvement using revenue from another government unit.
During the Community Development meeting, Common Council discussed Councilmember Scanlon's problem with the Buffalo Public School Boards' plan to return to in-person schooling. Three staff from Buffalo Public Schools ("BPS") attended the meeting: Dr. Keresztes ("Dr. K"), BPS Chief of Government Affairs, Dr. Brown-Hall ("Dr. B") who BPS Chief of Staff, and Jim Wymer who BPS COO. The discussion lasted nearly 30 minutes, with BPS staff detailing the critical parts of their reopening plan.
BPS will open schools for in-person learning on February 1, 2021. Remote learning will remain an option for parents.
Phase 1 makes school officials choose 100 students demonstrating the most need from each school for masked, in-person learning Monday through Friday. It also includes Pre-K, first grade, second grade, and high school seniors returning to in-person schooling via the hybrid model – outside of the 100 students demonstrating the most need. The hybrid model splits students into two cohorts, with Group A attending in-person Monday and Tuesday, while Group B attends Thursday and Friday. BPS staff will clean the classrooms on Wednesdays, and on the days hybrid students are not attending in person, they will participate in remote classes. All remaining grades will return to school no later than mid-March via the hybrid model.
Parents may opt out of returning their children to in-person learning by completing a form available on the BPS website, and available at each of the 48 BPS food distribution sites. Parents may also choose to specifically opt out of BPS transportation. Students and staff will sit six-feet apart, both in class and on BPS transportation.
New York State marked Erie County as a COVID-19 Orange Zone, requiring schools within the zone to test 20% of their students, and 20% of their staff every 30 days. Schools are not allowed to test more than 10% within 14 days. The state provided BPS with about 9,000 rapid tests deemed less invasive. BPS will provide parents of kids under 18 the opportunity to be with their child during testing and outfitted each school with up to three thermal scanners for daily temperature testing of in-person students. BPS advises each parent to test their child(ren) before they leave for school every morning.
Positive test results require deep cleaning of the affected classroom and a 14-day quarantine of the affected student(s), staff, and/or faculty. Erie County requires BPS to report the names of anyone who was within six-feet of the positive person for 10 minutes or more, and county contact tracers will determine what happens from there. Most likely, the county’s response will be to test every person on the contact trace list and require those on it to quarantine for 14-days.
BPS informed teachers more than 30 days in advance of February 1 that schools would reopen and conducted numerous informational sessions and will continue to do so. It also posted dates for Facebook Live information sessions on the BPS website. Buffalo Public Schools require each school administration to conduct additional informational sessions with the parents and staff in their community. Common Council will also help disseminate information about the reopening plan to their respective constituents. The reopening plan will include a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to alleviate the administrative need to answer the same questions repeatedly.
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