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Sunday, September 6, 2020

NY State School Districts' Teachers Want Remote Classes Only; Buffalo Teachers File For Injunction Against In-Classroom Work

Superintendent Scott Martzloff announces the delay of classes for grades 5-12 in
western New York's Williamsville Central School District in a video message.

Western New York school district delays classes after wave of teacher resignations and leaves of absence

(CNN)A school district outside Buffalo, New York, has delayed the start of online-only learning programs for grades 5-12 because of mass staff resignations and leaves of absence, the superintendent announced on Friday.
In a letter to families, Williamsville Central School District Superintendent Scott Martzloff said 90 staff members have taken a leave of absence due to Covid-19 and 111 staff members resigned.
Additionally, 2,361 students opted into online-only learning, including 1,375 middle and high school students, creating more than 80 virtual teacher vacancies, the letter reads.
Due to the reduction in staffing, school will be delayed until further notice for all students grades 5 through 12 in the online-only learning model, Martzloff said.
    Once adequate staffing arrangements are made, the district will notify families of a new start date, Martzloff said in a video posted online.
    Students in the hybrid instructional model or K-4 online-learning only will begin classes on September 8 as originally scheduled, according to the letter.
    Students are not allowed to switch instructional models until after October 1, when they will be allowed to switch once, Martzloff said.
    The school board announced in a letter Saturday that they were unaware of the change for remote learners, and were told on September 2 that was the school was ready to start school on September 8. The board will hold a special online meeting Sunday to discuss the matter further.
    "We sincerely apologize to the families that are impacted by this last-minute decision and we will work with the District to ensure students in grades 5-12 who are in the remote online learning model can start their school year as soon as possible," the letter said.
      The school district's website says it is the largest suburban school district in western New York with a projected 9,919 students enrolled in the 2020-21 school year.
      CNN has reached out to the New York State Department of Education for comment.
      Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore wants a judge to issue an injunction stopping
      the district from forcing teachers to be in the classroom even as students learn from home.
      Jay Rey Updated 

      Buffalo Public Schools and its teachers union are headed to court – again – this time over whether the 3,600 Buffalo teachers need to report to school while the students are learning from home.
      The two sides, no strangers to settling their conflicts in the court room, confirmed a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday when they will meet virtually with State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita III.
      The BTF is hoping the judge will issue a temporary restraining order. That would prevent the district from forcing teachers to work from their classrooms two days a week, during this period of remote instruction, until a full hearing can be conducted on the health and safety concerns being raised by the teachers union.
      At that full hearing, the union would seek a more permanent injunction until the matter could be resolved during the arbitration process, explained BTF President Philip Rumore.
      But arbitration could take months, which would be “disastrous” for the school district and its ability to eventually reopen in-person amid the Covid-19 pandemic when that time comes, said Nathaniel Kuzma, general counsel for the school district.
      “Even in an expedited fashion it will take months,” Kuzma said, “and any hopes to returning students to the school building at all will be significantly diminished.”
      Kuzma on Wednesday pointed the finger squarely at Rumore, the long-time union president. Fighting with the district continues to erode the trust in the city’s education system and drive families away to the private and charter schools, he said.
      “This is Phil. I don’t think this is the majority of teachers,” Kuzma said. “He has been teeing this up from the beginning.”
      The teachers union, which called for a remote start to the school year, has been threatening legal action all summer if teachers are uncomfortable with the district's reopening plan.
      The district announced a couple weeks ago that it would begin the school year Sept. 8 with all students learning from home. It plans to reevaluate the decision four to six weeks after opening day.
      But the district still wants teachers to teach remotely from their classrooms two days a week, understanding some may not be able to do so for health reasons.
      This week, teachers started professional development and are scheduled to set up their classrooms on Friday.
      Rumore, meanwhile, said many schools still lack adequate air filters, and windows don't open in some classrooms in older buildings. He said protocols for testing, temperature screenings and cleaning the buildings are inadequate.
      Rumore pointed to a poll of teachers over the weekend that found 1,866, or 70% of those surveyed, oppose the district's reopening plan and do not think it provides safe conditions in schools. Thirty percent, or 789 teachers, believe that it is safe for them to return to the classroom. There were 2,655 teachers voting, out of about 3,600 teachers, Rumore said.
      The union filed a grievance last week and sought the court’s intervention.

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