Back to school: Spotlight West Seneca

West Seneca, N.Y. (WBEN) "This is a spare tire until we can get everyone in the classroom."  West Seneca Teacher Association President Joe Cantafio explaining the school district's reopening plan on WBEN Wednesday morning.

"Every district is trying to do their very best to get kids back to school and to keep them in school. West Seneca is focused on a consistent educational plan where we have contact with every student, every day."

West Seneca Central Schools are under a 5-day a week full remote plan.  Over six thousand chromebooks were distributed to students, teachers are reporting to their classrooms, and students are logging on each day for live instruction.

"This gives us the opportunity to make sure that we're connecting with our students every single day."

Cantafio, who is in his 26th year at West Seneca West High School teaching social studies, said nothing can replace in-person learning, but this is a short term fix.  He noted that the district had over 95% attendance on Tuesday, the first day of school."I give our IT department a ton of credit for that," said Cantafio.

Staying connected with students daily, and checking on their social and emotional health is a priority.

What is it like to teach in an empty classroom?  "It's not what we signed up for and it's not what families signed up for. I miss the in-person connections, but we have to have a positive attitude," he said. "We know there are going to be some hiccups along the way, but we need to work through them and do the best we can. One of the skills that a good teacher develops is, how to read a room.  There are things you can do when you're starting to lose a student.  And a good teacher can tell if there's something on a student's mind. That's going to be a challenge while we're doing it remotely," he said.  

If there's one thing Cantafio has already learned, it's that students are much more resilient than adults. "When you ask students to wear a mask, there's no controversy. They do it. When you ask students to log-on to remote learning, they do it. We adults, get caught up in what-ifs, but our students seem to realize it's a tough situation, and they want to make the best of it.