BUFFALO, N.Y. — Monday marks the first day of in-person schooling in almost a year for several thousand Buffalo Public School students and staff.
"This is a celebratory day," BPS Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said in a press conference Monday morning outside of Frank A. Sedita Community School.
This is happening while the Buffalo Teachers Federation is taking legal action, aimed at keeping schools closed to in-person learning. BTF leadership has said, they believe schools are not clean or safe enough, while the district disagrees.
"It's challenging. This is essentially an engineering challenge to bring all of our children and all of our staff back onto the very, very different footprints of over 60 schools across this district," Cash added in the press conference.
Rafael Perez, principal of Frank A. Sedita Community School (PS #30) gave an upbeat speech as the school opened its' doors to the first students to step foot in the building in 341 days.
About 6,000 students will return to the classroom throughout the week in the entire district, which is about 25% of the student body. They've been remote learning since March 2020.
Who is going back?
BPS board member Larry Scott said pre-K through second grade and high school seniors will begin a hybrid model, and students with special needs will return five days a week.
Scott said he believes the board made the right decision allowing students to return but said as an educator he understands the anxiety it may bring.
"The concern, the anxiety, from staff are absolutely warranted," he said. "We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and I felt it as an educator and still do at times.
"But I felt strongly that with lower transmission rates, with clearly established policies in all of our school buildings, and reduced number of people in our buildings, we can bring back students and reduce the risk considerably, and also provide the value that in-person learn can absolutely provide "
The president of the District Parent Coordinating Council for BPS, Dr. Wendy Mistretta, told 2 On Your Side she is relieved to see the district moving forward with getting students back in the buildings.
She is also a mom, adding that she is happy to see her senior son return to the classroom.
"He has actually done well academically," she said. "He's been one of those who actually thrived in some ways, but he's anxious to get back.
"He's a senior and has half a year left. He knows very clearly that it's not going to be the same as normal times, but there is still a social aspect that we really want him to have that needs to happen."
Dr. Mistretta said she also has a daughter, a junior, and said she's frustrated there is currently no timetable for when other grade levels may be returning to the classroom.