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Buffalo Public Schools 'on the cusp' of shutting down again due to COVID cases

Kriner Cash (left) and Lou Petrucci
Mike Desmond
Buffalo Public School Superintendent Kriner Cash (left) and Buffalo School Board President Lou Petrucci at Wednesday evening's School Board meeting.

Buffalo Public School students might soon be back home, learning over computer screens again.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said the district has been pushed to the brink of shutting down again because of the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases in the system. That's 574 student cases and 226 teacher and staff cases from Sept. 3, when school started, until Tuesday — and the superintendent said things aren't slowing down.

Cash warned the school board Wednesday evening the district "is on the cusp" of shutting down.

"This thing is set, it's spreading and it's still here and it's still killing people. So, just so you know, we're on the cusp, we're on the cusp and I want a sense of urgency about this, as well as all of the other issues we talk about tonight," Cash said.

The district is still struggling to recover from the academic damage of being closed in the initial long lockdown.

Under new rules, just about every student in the school system can be vaccinated and the district is planning in-school vaccination clinics. Cash says that can't compete with the lack of vaccinations in the wider society and the failure to follow COVID safety rules.

"I don't want to have to close the buildings, but we've got to have a better effort at getting vaccinated, at getting our children vaccinated and people following the rules outside of school," he said.

COVID is also a significant factor in one of the biggest problems of this school year: the acute shortage of drivers for school buses, even with 200 routes eliminated. Apparently, many older drivers decided to stop driving, given the risks of COVID on the buses and on the streets.

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.