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More high school, middle school students in Erie County return to full in-person learning

'A lot of students forgot their locker combinations,' one local high school principal said, as many schools welcome more students back to in-person learning.

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — As New York State officially adopts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on mask wearing Wednesday, many high schools and middle schools across Erie County are welcoming students back to full in-person learning for the first time in over a year.

Grand Island High School and Middle School students got a standing ovation Wednesday morning, with teachers and staff applauding them for all their hard work over the past year, which by many accounts has been tough with hybrid and remote learning.

"I'm just so happy that we could come back five days a week now because life is kind of going back to normal again. Like somewhat, obviously, not completely, but it's getting better," said Adiana Cotroneo a Grand Island junior.

Many students say they've been ready to stop hybrid learning.

"Sometimes it's hard to have motivation to roll out of bed, things like that, get out of your pajamas. Mostly I'd be in my pajamas for school things like that," said Jackson Jones, a high school junior, "Of course, everyone was."

Not all students are making the switch to full in-person learning.

"We still have a select group of students who are choosing to stay remote, and many of them are still live streaming into their classrooms," said Michael Lauria, principal of Grand Island High.

For many students returning to full in-person, as you can imagine it took some time getting adjusted.

"A lot of students forgot their locker combinations," Lauria said.

The visual of students at three feet physical distancing, not six – another sign of normalcy. Also, the high school wind ensemble is no longer split up and is now practicing as one.

"It was good to have them reconnect good to see them in the rooms learning. Teachers were really excited to have them back," Lauria said. "It's been a hard year for our students, and we're really looking forward to trying to finish off the right way, to give them something to remember from their high school experience."

Many schools say they will assess any learning gaps in the coming weeks and months. Many schools are also working on getting students vaccinated.

A vaccination clinic will be held at Grand Island High next Thursday. Other local districts returning to full in-person include Hamburg, which will welcome students back Thursday.

Alden Schools returned to full in-person learning on Wednesday as well. Depew plans to return to full in-person learning on May 24.

Cleveland Hill Schools is returning some high school students to full five-day a week instruction, and is continuing to offer the hybrid and remote learning to students and families. 

Buffalo Public Schools says they will focus on getting as many students vaccinated before the end of the school year.