BUFFALO, N.Y. — In wake of the mass shooting that happened Saturday at Tops Friendly Markets on Jefferson Avenue the Buffalo Public Schools District stated that it was important to open schools Monday even though it would be difficult.
BPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Tonja M. Williams said two of the victims killed in the mass shooting were active staff members in the school district.
One of the victims, Pearl Young, known as Ms. Pearl, was a substitute teacher, and the other victim, Margus Morrison was a bus aide.
Emerson School of Hospitality Principle Debbie Stokes said Ms. Pearl was one of the most faithful and long-standing substitute teachers.
“She loved her students and they loved her back and she always greeted them with a hug and a smile and great conversation and said her life will always be celebrated,” Stokes said.
BPS said Margus Morrison was a beloved bus aide and had been with the district since 2019, was known to have perfect attendance, was on time, loved his students at School 99, and enjoyed his job.
Also, students and staff at McKinley High School are coming together to do something for the victims and families and they are donating their print shop resources to make obituaries for the victims for their funerals to give back to the Buffalo community.
BPS said it decided to open schools Monday with “a lot of love and care. And they made sure all district principles had want they needed, resources for students and staff, scripts for morning announcements. And they have added extra safety and security present along with bringing in more staff.”
The district believes that students needed a place to return to that was safe.
School Board member Terrance Heard said "Bringing the children back is very important - to understand that they have friends around. They have teachers around them but also counselors to help support them and for everyone."
This district said there is a multi-jurisdiction team monitoring what are ‘fake threats’ in the district via social media as well.
The district set out a plan with four elements that were implemented as schools opened Monday:
- Physical wellness
- Social-emotional mental health wellness
- Nutritional and medical wellness
- Instruction wellness
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The district said attendance was lower Monday, but they are committed to creating resources before school began Monday for teachers to reflect on the horrible events before teaching the students.
“We put great care and detail into opening schools today, each of us our sending our deepest condolences to the families…the Buffalo Public Schools District is about helping others,” Williams said.
Hamburg School Superintendent Michael Cornell says he also expected students to raise various subjects in connection to the mass shooting. Cornell says his staff has been specially trained in mental health first aid as he calls it and emotionally troubled students will be referred to counselors if need be.
Cornell said "The fact that hate is in our midst is gonna be worrying to kids of a certain age - you know middle school, high school kids - who are able to kind of conceptualize that."
He added "Those victims were following a routine - regular Saturday routine and some of these people didn't come home. And kids will understand that and be worried. For some of them it will be the first time that that sense of safety and security that you have when you're a younger person is shattered."