BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — For several school districts in the Western New York region Wednesday, September 1 marked the first day ‘back to school’ for students.
In the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District you could hear the sounds of pre-k students could be heard playing together in a classroom.
“It’s just been unbelievable!” declared Sabatino Climate, superintendent, Ken-Ton District.
Superindent Cimato tells me seeing students return to school is a “feeling like no other”.
Cimato has spent most of his time as the leader of the Ken-Ton District during the pandemic.
“Something to remember Eileen — this is my first — second year as superintendent, but my first, first day of seeing all of our kiddos come back — we were not in the place last year,” reflected Cimato.
Also new this year – the Hamilton School. It had been shut down for several years, but with enrollment growing again — the district saw the need to reopen it and offer full day pre-k.
“It’s great just to have them in the classroom — have them playing — working on social skills and — it's just great — great to have them back in the school,” remarked Emily Adams, pre-k teacher, Ken-Ton.
Adams says she's thrilled to see students back in the classroom playing and learning together.
“They're playing with pegs and Mr. Potato Heads and we just got done doing ice breaker game and sharing our name and our favorite animal and making animal sounds,” Adams explained.
The three and four year olds are the youngest of learners following the mask mandate.
“They do so good. They really do a better job then we give them credit for wearing the mask,” Adams noted.
“Our smallest kids are learning from a very young age that we can get through anything together,” Cimato remarked.
It was also the first day of school here in the Grand Island School District.
It’s the first day of the new school year for students in the @GrandIslandCSD. Students, teachers and leaders say they’re happy to be back for 5-day a week learning. @WKBW #backtoschool pic.twitter.com/HWLsNauvyA— eileen buckley (@eileenwkbw) September 1, 2021
“Its really exciting to see all of my friends and get back into a routine and see all of my new teachers,” said Janelle Spiesz, student, Veronica Connor Middle School.
8th graders Spiesz and Max Broeker say they're happy for the return of school, although Broeker says he had a little “anxiety” as he headed back.
“A little nervous at first, since it was the last year of middle school, but now that I got to know some of my teachers and got to see my old friends — I am feeling a lot better,” Broeker replied.
The Grand Island middle schoolers says they are glad they will be back five days a week in school even with a mask mandate.
“It’s a lot better than virtual,” responded Spiesz.
“I do think that it is a good idea to the masks in school, so all the kids can be safe,” Broeker stated.
Both students are part of a program called Web, where they mentor 6th graders to help them navigate their first year at middle school.
“They seem really nervous, but I think they’re having fun,” Spiesz said.
“I saw that some of the sixth graders were a little nervous,” Broeker recalls. “We’ll promise that we’ll help all the sixth graders know what they need to do for this school year.”
6th grade teacher Jillian Stapleton is also a Web Program leader.
“It’s so great to have all the students back five days a week,” Stapleton said.
“Do you think — more than ever — they wanted to be back now?" Buckley asked.
“I do. Obviously the first day always brings about some anxiety in students, in particularly some of our students that were full virtual last year — coming in I think had a little bit of hesitation in terms of -- am I going to my classes,” Stapleton replied.
“It is a fantastic day to see the students come in,” said John Fitzpatrick, principal.
Principal Fitzpatrick says students returned full of energy — happy to be back after such a tough time last school year.
“To be in the halls and hear kids laughing — that's a huge difference in our school,” Fitzpatrick commented.
“You sound pretty energized?” Buckley asked.
“Oh, I’m so energized. This is what we do. Middle school is one of the greatest places to be,” responded Fitzpatrick.