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Buffalo Schools express confidence, as they prepare to bring more students back to class

Eileen Buckley

Even with what Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash called "mind-boggling" levels of COVID-19 in some parts of Buffalo, city schools will continue to bring more students back to classes in the buildings Monday.Even as thousands of families choose to keep their children learning from home, many other families want their kids back in an actual classroom, socially distant in front of a teacher. It will give the district a chance to evaluate how well students are doing, coming out of the long virtual school mode.

"When we start Monday with the high schools, see, we’ll take a look at that, see how that strips out," said District Medical Director Dr. Dennis Kuo. "I don’t know. I don’t even know what’s going on. It’s not all sports. It’s not all attributable to sports. It’s just some folks are just tired of it, I think. I think some kids are saying, I’m done with this and meeting and gathering."

In its briefing Tuesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and county Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein talked about the recent surge in school infections. They said nearly all the latest cases are students ages 5-17, particularly student athletes. Erie County also has the highest positivity rate in the state.

Kuo said strict enforcement of virus rules make it safe to come back in a city bordering on the regulatory red zone.

"East Buffalo. 14204. Remember that the threshold for the red zone is 100 cases per 100,000 per seven days. The 14204 zip code with 851 over the last seven days. 14215 is 655. 14211 is  681," Kuo said.

The Oishei Children's Hospital doctor said as long as rules enforcement and testing continue, he’s comfortable with kids back at their desks. At the same time, Kuo said there needs to be far more COVID testing of young people and the district has the equipment to do that.

"I am comfortable continuing with the phased reopening that Dr. Cash has outlined because of the very ability of us to test, to trace, to isolate, to openly look at where the cases are and to be able to make sure that they aren’t in the school, or if they are in the school, that they are isolated quickly and that there’s no evidence of in-school transmission," he said.

Many doctors expect mass vaccinations of young people this summer will make for a safer return to September classes.

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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