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Fueled with federal aid, BPS superintendent Cash hopes COVID learning losses can be erased this year

BPS is armed with an additional $323 million to meet Superintendent Kriner Cash's ambitious goal.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools has a rather ambitious goal for the new school year: Get his 33,000 students caught-up on instruction lost due to COVID-related remote learning.

“The support will be there for students to accelerate their learning. The whole focus this year is on accelerating learning not remediating learning,” Dr. Kriner Cash said.

The city district does have additional resources for the task. An Associate Press database combining three different federal aid programs for COVID-affected public schools shows Buffalo Public Schools received an additional $323 million.

This money will be used in a number of ways. Cash noted there will be new schools, new programs, and an emphasis on arts education at the elementary level.

Given the plan and the additional federal money, Cash has set the goal of erasing lost educational time during the pandemic in a single school year.

Cash said, “The other part of the bargain is the student has to do some work. They have to put in the hours, even after school, up to two to three hours a day they have to study. That’s the way you catch up.”

Mark Laurrie, superintendent at Niagara Falls City Schools, sees the academic recovery for students taking longer. In an interview with 2 On Your Side during Summer School season, Laurrie said for some students it may take up to four years of Summer instruction to get them caught up.

A key for every school district will be assessment; or getting a specific idea where each individual student is academically.

Dean of the School of Education at Buffalo State College, Dr. Wendy Paterson says teachers will have to assess students regularly throughout the year. She believes school districts will have to be flexible with curriculum to make up the learning losses.

Patterson also thinks trying to get every student educationally caught-up may take more than a single school year, “I would say a couple years is probably a good estimate.”