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'It was like a classroom frozen in time:' Buffalo teachers on returning to school to collect items

“It’s really heartbreaking."
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Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 09:06:47-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — There are some eerie images left behind in abandon classrooms and hallways inside a charter school Buffalo.

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Elmwood Village Charter School hallway where winter wear is left behind.

Several members of the Elmwood Village Charter School EVCS shared their emotional thoughts during this crisis with 7 Eyewitness News.

Seven teachers, a school administrator and school nurse joined our zoom conversation.

They wanted to document what it looks like inside one of their two campuses.

7 Eyewitness News was given access inside the Elmwood Village Charter School Campus on Days Park in Buffalo.

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Seven teachers, a school administrator and school nurse joined our zoom conversation.

The teachers described emotional moments they've experienced walking into a 'silent' school building to retrieve items, after leaving quite suddenly more than a month ago.

“Quiet is not a word we ever hear and it made me really sad, and I had my husband with me and I just kind of looked at him and looked away real quick," sobbed Josette Smith, 8th grade math teacher. "I didn't know, I’m sorry that I was going to feel that way.”

“It was just pretty wild to see it. It was like the classroom was frozen in time,” Annie Shields remarked.

Teachers described dark hallways and classrooms with lessons left untouched.

7th and 8th grade social studies teacher Melissa Kramer said the school is like eerie history images she uses in her teachings.

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Inside an Elmwood Village Charter School classroom.

“Images like right before war happens or right before huge devastation happens,” Kramer reflected.

Kramer is also involved with organizing events for 8th graders.

She spoke about how difficult it is as they prepare to graduate.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Kramer cried.

Even more eerie, students departed from their school on Friday, March 13th, leaving behind abandoned school projects, like these ‘leprechaun traps’ and boots and winter wear all over their school hallway.

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School project for St. Patrick's Day left behind.

“And it was an eerie feeling,” stated Krista Shaffer, kindergarten special education teacher. “We did leprechaun traps because St. Patrick's Day was coming around and they were still all out there."

Reading specialist Jennifer Seitz is a teacher and school parent. Her daughter is also a first grader at the charter school.

Seitz said she went into her daughter’s classroom to bring back home some items from her desk.

“It was all sorts of emotions, not only as a teacher but also as a parent. Knowing that my child left that room on March 13th and will not go back to that classroom, most likely,” described Seitz. “Everything left that day [was] left behind. The first thing that really struck me was the quiet of the school, the darkness of the school and schools are not normally quiet."

Elmwood Charter teachers says there's been a more than a 90-percent participation rate with on-line learning. Still some students need human contact to learn.

“My heart really goes out to those kids," replied Rachele Schneekloth, 5th grade teacher. "There's no contact happening.”

But this group remains hopeful students and teachers will return soon.

“It’s all still waiting there for them when we can come back,” responded Melanie Lesswing, 4th grade special education teacher.

EVCS administrator Debra Steckler gives all her teachers credit for working with students on distance learning and supporting students outside the classroom during this difficult time. Steckler noted the teachers even held a caravan, driving past all EVCS students homes recently

“Our faculty also really went out there and showed their love for each and every student across both campuses by going and driving passed every single students house," Steckler explained. "That’s just an incredible show of commitment on their part,”

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Elwmood Village Charter School hallway.

School leaders are wondering what the future will look like when they are given the green light to return.

Dana Fauth is a school nurse at the charter school.

She wonders if they will be required to take student temperatures each day and suspects students could be required to wear face masks.

For now, Fauth said they started a mask drive in their school community.

“We’ve asked families, who needs a mask?" Fauth asked. "How many adults? How many children and who can make masks?”