As students in Western New York's largest school district returned to the classroom today – some for the first time in more than 18 months – there was joy, and a few delays amid the raindrops.
"When we’re gathered here today on a day like this so special, after 18 long, hard, difficult months, for all of us, we are filled with joy, we are filled with gratitude that we are here today," Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said as he marked the first day at Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts.
Buffalo is struggling with a bus driver shortage being felt around the country, and before school started reduced the number of routes to 510 to deal with the loss of more than 150 bus drivers. But today, there were 30 drivers who did not report to work, Cash said.
"We had the other 480 drivers drop their children and then the drivers went back to pick up the children," he said. "Parents were informed there were driver shortages."
And when they got to school, some students encountered long lines outside as they waited to enter the buildings. Cash said that was probably due to the health screening.
Parents fill out a daily health questionnaire online, and schools are taking students' temperatures when they arrive.
"They have to get their temperatures checked through a scanner. Some schools are more efficient at that," Cash said. "But this is the first day, so we're pressure testing that system as we go through."
The superintendent said the main goal is to keep the coronavirus out of schools.
"We ask parents' patience while we work through that system," he said.
And to parents who are concerned or anxious about sending their children back to school full time, Cash was sympathetic.
"I feel you. I understand exactly how you feel. This has been a terrible, terrible scourge. It's a global pandemic," he said.
He said he will get a full report of all aspects of the opening at the end of the day.