BUFFALO, N.Y. — The head of Buffalo Public Schools says student attendance “wasn’t a primary concern” during the COVID pandemic.
For starters, says Dr. Kriner Cash, it was a universal challenge, “Attendance is a problem in the suburbs. It’s a problem in Hamburg. It’s a problem in Utica. It’s a problem in New York City. All over the world.”
Additionally, Dr. Cash notes during the pandemic students were struggling with more important issues such as hunger, homelessness, and the loss of family members.
Still, attendance was a significant issue for Buffalo schools.
Based on reporting by 2 On Your Side’s journalistic partners, Investigative Post, city school absences were a substantial problem this school year. Based on the district’s own attendance data, the number of students classified as having “severe” absenteeism jumped to 34% compared to 17% two years ago, before COVID hit.
The district is in the midst of assessing students for learning loss. It is widely acknowledged among educators remote learning is not nearly as effective as in-person instruction. And a robust summer school program opens next month with offerings at many school plus every city high school.
But Dr. Cash is confident students’ learning loss can be fixed with more screen time.
“They’re on their phone 12 to 13 hours a day. We have such sophisticated applications for learning, and learning deeply and comprehensively, that all the student has to do is get online and go to work,” Dr. Cash said.
The superintendent went further describing devices as “the cure” for pandemic learning loss.