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Buffalo, NY | Local News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WGRZ.com

Local school draws on experience battling 1919 pandemic

The Park School is heading into a landmark year 100 years at this Harlem Road location and 118 years since the school was started on Jewett Parkway in Buffalo.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As schools across the country try to navigate the unprecedented subject of reopening. But for one local school, it is not unprecedented. They are is drawing on experience from another pandemic, a century ago.

The Park School is heading into a landmark year 100 years at this Harlem Road location and 118 years since the school was started on Jewett Parkway in Buffalo.

"Park's mission always from 1912 was to have outdoor education, " said school principal Lisa Conrad, while showing off a bit of its history.  "So this is called a sitting out bag that was used by students of the park school nearly a hundred years ago."

That focus on outdoor learning is something that helped them adapt well a century ago when the Spanish flu pandemic hit.  The school was able to stay open, practicing what we now call social distancing, wearing masks, having small class sizes and the use of outdoor space with better ventilation.

“I would imagine lessons learned a century ago are coming in a play right now. Absolutely they are," Conrad said. 

Among the approaches they are taking at Park to keep students safe while it reopens are the use of face masks, shutting off drinking fountains, a steady flow of communication between staff and parents and social distancing, using their entire 34-acre campus. Just like during the 1918-1919 pandemic, outdoor space is the key to keeping everyone safe. In fact, to maximize that outdoor learning, they are reopening on August 24

"Plus you have the likelihood that you have a longer amount of time to use the weather to get yourself outside,” Conrad said. 

Providing them more hope that they will be able to get back to teaching their 250 students.

"We are optimistic because we have done this before and we'll do it again,” Conrad said. “Park has seen through another pandemic, Park has seen itself in two world wars, we will do it again."