As Buffalo Public Schools look to bring more students back parents worry it’s not soon enough

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Parents within the Buffalo Public School District are concerned students aren’t making their way back inside the classroom fast enough. Even as more students are expected to return to a hybrid learning model, parents are worried time could run out for certain grade levels.

“I’m really relieved, but frustrated that it’s taking so long,” said Wendy Mistretta, whose two kids attend City Honors High School.

Earlier this month, students Pre-K through second grade, high school seniors and students with special needs were introduced to the district’s hybrid learning model. Students in third and fourth grade and high school freshmen are up next. The other grade levels still have to wait.

“I’m happy that we’re bringing more students back,” parent Sam Radford III said. “I think we’re moving at a really slow pace and I think our children are paying a serious price and are going to pay a serious price for that in the long term.”

School board member Larry Scott says the district is doing what they can while keeping safety in mind.

“We need to remain cautious and take this slowly,” he said. “I know we want to move fast now that things are looking good, but we still need to do this safely and responsibly.”

He added that the phased-in approach to reopening has been successful.

“If things continue to trend in the way that they’re trending right now with the virus, I remain very hopeful that all of our students will have the opportunity to return to our buildings in person before this [school] year ends,” he said.

Parents throughout Western New York have been pushing school leaders to bring students back 5 days a week. Several school superintendents tell News 4, given the current guidelines on schools, it’s just not possible.

“The classrooms are only so big. We can only remove so much furniture and we can only fit some many students and still maintain six feet and masks,” Niagara Falls Public School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie said.

“We have to follow the six foot rule of social distancing so we don’t have the ability to bring everybody back,” West Seneca School District Superintendent Matthew Bystrak said adding that the district is doing hypothetical planning in case the distancing guidelines were to change.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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