Mount St. Mary students return for new school year

“I’m just grateful that we are able to be back"
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Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 18:17:29-04

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY (WKBW) — “I’m feeling great. I’m really glad to be back and in person,” declared Bailey Blanchard, senior.

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Bailey Blanchard is a Mount St. Mary Academy senior.

Mount St. Mary Academy high school students in the Town of Tonawanda say they're ready to navigate around COVID-19 protocols for this new school year.

“I’m just grateful that we are able to be back,” remarked Audree Woods, senior.

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Angie Lillis & Audree Woods are both seniors at Mount St. Mary Academy.

“I’m excited, hopeful and to have a good year with my friends,” said Angie Lillis, senior.

Principal Katherine Spillman say students are excited to be back and willing to adjust to for learning as well as school events and activities.

“I’m inspired by the students and their energy around that,” Spillman reflected.

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Mount St. Mary Principal Katherine Spillman.

Catholic and private schools like Mount St. Mary remained open last school year because of a smaller school population.

In fact, the school even gained a few new students.

“I’m really proud of is the families who came to us last year from public districts have stayed with us because they value a Mount St. Mary education and their daughters are now happy to be here,” explained Spillman.

School leaders say despite the COVID protocols they're fortunate to have a large campus so students can spread out.

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Inside hallway at Mount St. Mary.

“We are blessed that we have a large campus. We are able to go outside. We have a large cafeteria. We're able to kind of figure out classroom sizes a little more easily,” Spillman remarked.

Spillman says there is concern with how contagious the Delta Variant is, but nearly 100-percent of the faculty and staff are vaccinated.

The highly contagious Delta Variant is raising COVID-19 positivity rates in Erie County among youth.

Latest Erie County numbers show the highest positivity rates are occurring for those under the age of 19.

For the week ending September 4, positivity rates among those ages 0-4, 5-10 and 11-13 were more than 6-percent.

Next Tuesday the school will be hosting a “Coffee conversation” with the school's medical director to educate families about the importance of vaccinations.

Inside at Mount St. Mary classroom.

“We’re collecting, right now, voluntarily — vaccine cards — we're really pleased with the families that are saying hey my daughter's vaccinated — I’m wanting this as a health measure,” Spillman noted.

Students I spoke with say they are fully vaccinated.

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Mount St. Mary students Audree Woods & Angie Lillis.

"I’m fully vaccinated. I encourage everybody to get vaccinated. I think it will help stop the spread,” Lillis said.

"Do you feel then that's a very important part of coming back and being together?” Buckley asked.

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Mount St. Mary student Bailey Blanchard.

“Yes, I do. I think it's important so we can have events, for our seniors we have a normal graduation, our senior lounge may be back,” replied Blanchard.

“If you can — everyone should try to get vaccinated because not only are you protecting yourself and helping yourself, but you're really doing a huge thing for the people around you as well as the whole word in general,” Woods noted.

The Erie County Health Department says 56.5-percent of teenagers in the county 16 to 17-years-old have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 52.8-percent of the 12 to 15-year-olds also received one dose as of September 6.