“I’m definitely glad that they're home safe where they need to be until they can figure out — you know — how to keep he schools safe,” said Maggie VanCuran.
VanCuran and her daughter Gracie, a senior at Kenmore West High School, are relieved students don't have to return to a packed school during the pandemic.
“But it’s better to not have everyone get sick,” Gracie remarked.
Gracie admits working remotely, from home, to complete her school work has been challenging.
“The work is hard — the work is really hard,” said Gracie. “Being away from your friends,” VanCuran noted. “But like some teachers are assigning like more work, than what we would be able to finish,” Gracie explained.
“We are very pleased that he has made the decision that he has to keep schools closed,” stated Dr. Kriner Cash, superintendent, Buffalo Public Schools.
In the Buffalo Public School District School district, where more than 30,000 students will not be returning to the classroom, challenges continue.
Superintendent Cash says thousands of children and families are struggling with social, emotional and trauma troubles.
“Tremendous trauma is occurring throughout this period,” remarked Cash.
Cash said it’s not just about academics, but about student wellness and equity.
“How are you going to continue to reach those families that have fallen off the radar screen?” Buckley questioned.
“Our mantra has been every child every day,” Cash responded.
The superintendent says his teams are working day and night to make sure they try to reach families.
“Some families literally survive off of cell phones that have minutes tied to them and so at the end of a month — those minutes run out — we’ve now lost contact with them,” Cash stated.
But Cash noted remote learning will not end, even if students return this fall to class.
“We foresee some sort of remote learning continuing from now on. We'll never go back to just a ‘brick and mortar ‘ delivery model of our program,” said Cash. “We call it brick to click.
If schools are allowed to return to classrooms in September, Cash said a lot of measures would be needed.
“We’re going to have to make sure we test everybody. We’re going to have to take temperatures of all staff coming in the morning, all students coming in the morning,” Cash noted. “We’re going to have to have significant PPE equipment.”
Niagara Falls City Schools superintendent Mark Laurrie said he’s glad Governor Cuomo made the decision on May first to give the district enough time to complete current remote learning, plan for the summer and the fall school year.
“We are still going to continue teaching virtual teaching and learning virtually until June. We have to,” said Laurrie.
Laurrie is also expecting learning to continue to look different.
“Remote learning was almost a drill for possibly what's to come in the fall?” Buckley asked. “It really was and I think this drill, his exercise has really helped where what we will be able to now do is test out a few more platforms with certain courses over the summer,” replied Laurrie. “In the fall, we should have locked in all of our two-way distance learning.
Laurrie said he is “holding out hope” for some in-person learning in the 2020-2021 school year.
But like the Buffalo schools, Laurrie is also trying to stay connected to a populations of students and families that seem to be lost.
“We have made contact, at least once, with 95-percent of our students. There’s still five percent though that we’ve had no engagement with,” Laurrie explained.
But Laurrie noted some of those students, well before the pandemic, did not have “solid engagement” with the school district.
Laurrie says they must act quickly to adjust for whatever the new school year brings.
“Time is our friend, but if we don’t get on it right away — we can’t get our backs up against the wall,” Laurrie said.
Both Buffalo and the Falls city school districts will continue remote learning and food distribution to students and families.