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School districts planning full, in-person learning in the fall

"In-person instruction is ideal for our students"
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Posted at 4:34 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 17:55:47-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — While many students are on summer break, districts across the region are already preparing for the next school year.

But exactly what classrooms will look like now the pandemic's grip has loosened its hold is not fully known.

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Western New York classroom during pandemic.

Some districts are already announcing a return to full, five day, in-person learning.

“I know a lot of people are wondering what next school year is going to look like and I just want to let you know that we are committed to a full return to school for next year,” stated Matthew Bystak, superintendents West Seneca Central School District.

West Seneca Schools will be open fully for five-day, in-person learning this fall.

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Matthew Bystak, superintendents West Seneca Central School District, delivering message to district.

Superintendent Bystrak issued this YouTube message late last week not waiting for official guidance from the state health department.

The superintendent also issued a letter to the school community stating a "full return to school for all" students in September, barring any requirements issued by the state that would change those plans.

“We’re going to watch the state does over the next several weeks and you know, hopefully with the way things are trending with COVID right now — that's not going to be a problem for us to be able to do that,” Bystrak explained.

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Matthew Bystak, superintendents West Seneca Central School District, in Zoom interview.

“Are you frustrated at all that the state can't be more concrete in making a decision as well, given where we are at and obviously if things there would be a pull back for certain reasons if there was an outbreak?" Buckley asked.

“I think you just hit the nail on the head. I think that's the reason they're maybe proceeding — I don't want to insert any thoughts or ideas where they don't belong — but my suspicion is this they're just trying to be cautious because they don't want to have to pull back guidance,” Bystrak responded. “The in-person instruction is ideal for our students.”

The Niagara Falls City School District has also announced it will return to full in-person learning when schools reopen for more than 7,000 students September 7th.

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Outside Niagara Falls High School.

“We’re full steam ahead — full go a head,” declared Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls.

Superintendent Laurrie says the state has not provided any official word on the fall season and what classrooms would look like, so he's moving forward with fall plans.

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Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls, in Zoom interview.

"All day, everyday for the school calendar, unless there is some restriction or change in the health conditions of the community,” remarked Laurrie.

“Are you frustrated with the state health department and state education department?" Questioned Buckley.

“It becomes frustrating just not having closure to one period of rules and a date certain to give an update date on the next set of rules,” replied Laurrie.

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Inside a Niagara Falls City School classroom on days students held in-person learning.

The Falls City School District, West Seneca and Alden Central Schools districts were all able to return to full, five-day, n-person learning just weeks before this school year ended.

In a recent interview with Alden Schools Superintendent Adam Stotlman, he told me it was an important trial run for the next school year.

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Alden Schools Superintendent Adam Stotlman.

“We take the element of doubt off the table for the months of July and august in preparation for September — nobody is wondering what if,” reflected Stoltman. “We’ve got a body of work over the course of the last five weeks of the school year that we can point to and say — hey it worked."

Schools are moving forward with summer school. Students must continue wearing masks in-doors, but when outdoors, they can remove them.

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Alden Central School students returned to full, in-school learning in May.

Laurrie says his district started summer school Monday, right after this past weekend’s high school graduation, to keep the momentum going for students.

The district is also planning what it calls 'summer transition camps' in all schools at all grade levels for this summer to help them transition back to school.

Many students spent 16 months in remote or hybrid learning

The West Seneca superintendent says the district will also be providing additional supports to students this fall including academic intervention supports in ELA and math.

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West Seneca Central School District.

But most importantly, the district is adding to its social-emotional team to assist students who struggled through a tough year of remote learning.

“We’re actually hiring a couple more social workers, a couple more psychologists in the district. One of the things that a couple of those folks are going to be doing is working on a district-wide intervention team for students who might really struggling and might need some added supports,” Bystrak explained.