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As state deadline for school reopening plans nears, BTF president says, 'We're not ready yet'

Eileen Buckley

School districts across New York are supposed to send Albany their plans for starting school in the time of COVID-19 by Friday, but Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says that is way too soon.

It is unclear how Albany can look at the reopening plans from 732 school districts and evaluate how 2.6 million kids will see their educations restart. The schools vary geographically, in enrollment, in ethnic makeup and educational needs. The plans are supposed to be evaluated in time for kids to start classes in little more than a month.

Rumore said Buffalo's uncertainties match with other districts.

"Safety in the buildings. The sanitization in the buildings. How temperatures are going to be taken. How will the bathrooms be cleaned when students use them and all of the new programs," Rumore said. "Also, where the parents can opt to have virtual learning."
Rumore said there is a committee on which BTF members sit with Buffalo Public Schools officials to assist with reopening plans. With shipment to Albany slated for Friday, the BTF president said the committee has met for only four or five hours and the teachers union members haven't seen even a draft of the final plan yet.

"They have been supposedly working on this since June, but they haven't gotten anywhere," Rumore said. "There have to be more demands by the state, but also, there has to be an ability for places like Buffalo who have really, in my opinion, have dropped the ball, to say, 'Look it. We're not ready yet."

He said it is all too important and the delivery has to be pushed back.

"There seems to be a rush to judgment here," he said. "What we're talking about are lives. We're not talking about an education, which parents are rightly concerned about, but you can make up for an education that's lost because some of our kids, a lot of our kids, are behind a lot anyway. But you can't bring a person back to life."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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