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The Park School outlines reopen plan

Early start to school year recommended
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 17:50:52-04

SNYDER, NY (WKBW) — The Park School of Buffalo is looking to open the school year earlier if schools are given the green light from the state to reopen for the new school year.

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The Park School located off Harlem Road in Snyder.

The school, located in Snyder, released its preliminary Return to School Report on how it would reopen following the pandemic that has shuttered schools.

The report is based on recommendations made by the school’s Safe School Advisory Committee (SSAC).

“I am pleased and grateful for the work of the Safe School Advisory Committee. Although we are awaiting further guidance for educational safety guidelines, we are confident that this preliminary Return to School plan will align closely with standards set forth by New York State. The Park School of Buffalo is uniquely positioned to safely return students and faculty to our campus, while accommodating families with various educational options,” stated Head of School Jeremy Besch.

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Head of School Jeremy Besch.

Among the recommendations the Park School is considering would be to begin the 2020-21 school year on August 24, instead of in September.

The recommendation said this would “help offset any potential shutdown within the school year.”

The Park School held parades Friday celebrating the class of 2020, marking the end of a challenging school year.

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Park School senior waves at parade Friday outside her home.

“It’s a little overwhelming. Everything that we do has been examined,” Besch explained.

We asked Besch why would that be better to return in August.

“What we're trying to anticipate is if we need to shut down as a community in say in November or December because of the onset of flu or the return of COVID, we want to make sure that we don't lose time,” replied Besch.

“The early start date — I think is great,” responded April Schneeberger is a Park School teacher and parent.

She says she believes the plan would provide safety for Park students and staff.

“I’m fully confident the small class sizes — the way they're able to easily adapt, the hands on learning where they don't have to be you know together, so packed tightly — it’s everything that they need,”Schneeberger.

School leaders say this will help keep students at a safe distance.

“We’re blessed with a 34 acre campus and part of our teaching practice has us outside everyday anyway, so being able to be outdoors even with small groups of students per class allows us to do tons of appropriate spacing,” Besch remarked.

“My concern as a parent is just how close the kids are going to be all day long, but with the open spaces here, they are able to spread them out in the open air — the fresh air,” Schneeberger said.

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The Park School campus.

School leaders say they've examined everything from foot traffic patterns to protocols for entering and leaving classrooms and has already notified families students will be wearing face masks.

“We have alerted our families that it looks like we will have to come back and wear masks when we are indoors,” Besch explained.

Besch said they haven’t received any resistance from school families on an earlier return. If school does reopen, Besch noted families that might be traveling in August, the school will work with them.

“Questions around what if we plans or what if we are not able to be back right away — we’ll flex and make that work,” Besch said.

Here are several highlights of the plan issued by the committee:

  • Early start to the school year; school will begin on August 24, 2020 to help offset any potential shutdown within the school year
  • Smaller class sizes with appropriate spacing to adhere to social distancing standards
  • Hybrid schedule options for students and families to accommodate health concerns and parent work schedules
  • Utilization of outdoor spaces to potentially ease mask requirements for students

“The Park School of Buffalo has nine academic buildings spread across 34 acres of land, and Park students routinely spend time outdoors every day. Our campus and educational practices differentiate us from most other schools. We are uniquely positioned to offer a safe environment for students to learn, faculty to teach, and parents to trust,” stated Lisa Conrad, Dean of Middle School and Co-Chair of the SSAC.

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The Park School campus.

The SSCA is made up of healthcare professionals, educators, parents, and both private sector and not-for-profit leaders.

The Park School has nearly 300 students in pre-k through grade 12. The Park School is known as one of the “oldest progressive schools” in the country. It's 108-years-old, originally located in the city of Buffalo. This coming school year it celebrates 100-years of education on the campus off Harlem Road in Snyder.