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More questions, as Albany rejects Buffalo Public Schools' plan to delay classes into October

Mike Desmond
Tuesday's online session addressed many questions about the Buffalo Public Schools' reopening plan.

There were a lot of angry teachers and some parents in front of their computers Tuesday, as the Buffalo Public Schools' reopening plan to delay classes into October crashed and burned in Albany.

It is back to the drawing board, said district Chief of Staff Darren Brown-Hall during the Facebook session. As teachers prepare to start training sessions Sept. 1, Brown-Hall was interrogated virtually about the district's reopening plans.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation wants a vote on whatever the final plan is, and if the vote is "no," there will likely be legal action.

There is a long list of unresolved issues or undetermined procedures, with school only weeks away. Brown-Hall said there is a plan if a student shows up likely COVID-positive.

"The contact tracers will contact the school principal. The school principal will give the contact tracers the information of any student or staff member that has been within 6' of the person whose test came back positive," he said. "They would have to be within 6' of the person for 10 minutes or more and that information is given to the contact tracers. The contact tracers contact each of those persons and mandate that they quarantine for 14 days."

Brown-Hall told teacher Chelsey Waz she will have to be in the building some days.

"Teachers can actually do remote learning because schools are open. They'll be able to do remote learning from their classroom, every day they want to," he said. "What I'm saying is we are in discussions right now to require teachers come into the building two or three days a week, to do remote learning from their classroom, if we start remote only. (garbled voices) If we start hybrid, teachers will be in anyway."

One big issue is if a teacher becomes infected. Many teachers say their understanding is that they would have to use their own sick time to recover. The BTF says they would be covered by workers compensation.

Teacher Melissa Kenney had some skepticism about the mask breaks.

"Once we remove a mask, inside of the classrooms, my cousin, who's a doctor, has said that defeats the purpose if everybody takes off the masks we have all now been exposed to it," Kenney said. "How do we make sure that our kids who are in a 104-degrees temperature room in September get that mask break without infecting everybody else?"

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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