BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The Buffalo Public School District is preparing to bring more than 5,000 additional students back to the classroom next week.
Preparations have been underway for district’s phase 2 reopening plan.
“I’m so impressed with our students because they really have complied with the mask usage and social distancing,” remarked Cheryl Kennedy, director of transportation.
Kennedy, who leads the district’s transportation center, says students who returned last month have followed COVID rules on school buses.
This Monday elementary students in 3rd and 4th grades and 9th and 11th graders will return for phase 2 of in-person learning, two days a week.
But only 26 students are allowed on yellow school buses at a time — buses that normally transport 45-50 students.
“Did that force you to get more buses as well?”, asked Buckley.
“At this point, no. A lot of our families have chosen to opt out of transportation services or in person instruction, so that has helped with our capacity,” replied Kennedy.
Students who rely on NFTA buses must also follow social distancing rules and those buses only allow 26 people on board at once.
“If there's one little silver lining in COVID — is our kids are able use the system without any hiccups right now,” explained Kennedy.
Parents and city school families say they are excited for a return, but say the process has been too slow.
“All I really want is a plan to make a plan — not only do we not have the plan for what phase 3 and 4 are going to look like — we don't know,” noted Wendy Mistretta, school parent.
Mistretta serves president of the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC).
She has two children attending City Honors. Her son is a senior and returned last month, but her daughter, a junior, is still waiting to return to the classroom.
“I just want to know is she going to be able to be there for fourth quarter — just please tell me,” Mistretta said.
“We just don't seem like we have a sense of urgency — we're not doing what we see in other districts,” declared Sam Radford, parent advocate.
Radford is co-chair for the CAO’s We the Parents Organization. He said he agrees with Mistretta.
But the district says it has challenges other districts don't face, such as a population of 33,000 students.
“How do respond to that as a parent then?”, questioned Buckley.
“But when we compare the big five school districts in New York State …to New York, Yonkers, Syracuse. Rochester — schools of like size Buffalo is — still the last one,” replied Radford.
The district's transportation leader says there are still a number of school families who are not ready to send their children back and will remain remote.