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McKinley High School to resume in-person classes, gradually, next week

Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash spoke Friday about plans to reopen the school following violence which left two students and a security guard wounded Wednesday afternoon.
Michael Mroziak
Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash spoke Friday about plans to reopen the school following violence which left two students and a security guard wounded Wednesday afternoon.

Two days after violence left two students and a security guard wounded outside McKinley High School, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash announced plans for welcoming staff and students back into the building next week.

“Colleagues, let me first say that there are understandable reasons why this moment creates so much anxiety and worry in all of us,” Cash said in his opening remarks. “That was a traumatic event that occurred on Wednesday here, just on the outskirts of this campus. It affected all of us.”

On Wednesday afternoon at about 3:45 p.m., approximately half an hour after classes ended for the day, a fight just off school grounds led to a stabbing and gunfire. A 14-year-old was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds, while a 13-year-old was treated after being grazed in the arm by a bullet. A security guard was shot through the leg.

Classes were held remotely. On Saturday morning, teachers are invited to voluntarily come back for some “healing dialogue.” The school’s basketball players are also being welcomed back to practice.

The gradual return to classes begins at the start of the new week.

“We will start on Monday. We will be working with teachers, aides and assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians, Encore specialists, everybody that as a staff member at this school will be engaged in the reset. That's exciting to me,” Cash said. “And then the kids will be brought back probably on Tuesday, and they'll be brought back in phases.”

Students will return by their grades. Families were to receive notices about the schedule.

The 14-year-old stabbing victim was said to be in stable condition Friday. A 17-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault. A suspect who fired the gunshots during the violence was still being sought Friday evening.

The security guard, Bradley Walker, is recovering from his gunshot wound. Cash says he spoke with him by phone, and Walker looks forward to returning to work when ready. The superintendent praised him and also security officer Jennifer Little, whom Cash said rushed to her colleague’s side.

“When she saw that her colleague, Mr. Walker was injured, she went immediately to his side and kneel down and began to provide pressure and, I guess, a makeshift tourniquet to make sure that he was okay. And she stayed with him until the ambulance came and took him away,” he said.

Cash says there are five security officers hired to work at McKinley, but at the time of the attack only two were still on duty.

He says the district has also taken steps to reset the culture of the school, beginning with a new principal. Moustafa Khalil began that role Thursday. He comes to McKinley from Buffalo’s East High School. Additional staff, including another assistant principal and more behavioral specialists, are also being added.

The superintendent confirmed he asked Mayor Byron Brown for additional resources to aid with the return to class, and that two school resource officers were to be provided through the end of March.

Cash, when addressing Wednesday’s incident and the coverage which has followed, said if there’s one thing he will not do, it’s to let anyone “trash and bash, bash and trash” the district. He offered special praise for McKinley.

“The McKinley High School is one of our very best high schools. It is one of the best high schools in the region. And I would argue for what it does, as a career and technical focus school, one of the best high schools in the country,” he said. “That's a long standing tradition here. The students are absolutely fabulous, energetic, smart, talented. And they're led every day by a very talented group of teachers, teacher assistants, food service workers, and of course, the admin team.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.