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Buffalo Public Schools to get more than $1 billion in state, federal funding

Buffalo Public Schools will get hundreds of millions of dollars through the state budget and pandemic funding from the federal government.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As many schools across Western New York, return to full in-person learning, that will not happen in the Buffalo Public Schools district before the end of the school year.

School leaders say they will continue to try to get as many students and staff vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Meantime, the district will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from both the federal government and the state to in large part, address issues related to the pandemic. 

Buffalo Schools expects to get $814 million dollars from the state plus, according to Congressman Brian Higgins, an additional $232 million from the American Rescue Plan. That's more than $1 billion for Buffalo schools.

"We have to bridge the digital divide, we have gaps right now financially, we have to enhance teacher recruitment," state Assemblyman Bill Conrad said.

Lawmakers and school officials held a news conference Thursday to discuss how some of the funding will be used.

District superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says top priorities include boosting graduation rates and making students ready for college and the workforce.

"What draws kids to school is all the great programming we're going to have in there, more advanced courses, more athletics than they've ever seen before, beginning in fifth grade," Cash said.

But, the plan for American Rescue funds is less certain. Some want more attendance teachers, but that's something Dr. Cash doesn't appear to support.

"Why should I hire an attendance teacher to come get you to come to school? That's your job parents, that's your job student," Cash said.

Plus there are other questions.

What is the district's plan in terms of addressing learning loss?

"It's not about learning loss, it's about how do we catch kids up, how do we help kids get back online for grade level expectations," Cash said.

Could you talk about more specifics though? 

"Stay tuned," Cash replied.

As for fully reopening schools in the fall, Dr. Cash says that's the plan.

"If we can get our children vaccinated, vaccinated, and all of our staff then I expect a safe full return in the fall," Cash said.

Is there a mark you would like to hit 70 percent, 75 percent, 80 percent?

"Not in kids, not with kids, in staff, in staff because they've had the opportunity," Cash said.

Dr. Cash says it's possible the district creates an online learning academy for the fall. He says there will be community hearings to get ideas on how to spend the state funding the district will get.

He says there will also be meetings next month on what to do with funds from the American Rescue Plan.

According to coronavirus email update Thursday from the Governor's Office: 

"Based on the current COVID trajectory, all New York State schools will reopen for full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. There is no substitute for in-person learning and as things currently stand, there is no reason why our students should not get back to in-person learning as usual."

However, guidance from the state Education Department has not been released and is not expected to be imminently released. Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for NYSED writes in a statement: 

“The Department continues to have discussions with the Executive, the field and stakeholders to ensure that in-person learning and remote learning guidance reflects the most up to date thinking. We hope to release guidance in the coming weeks.”

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