Suburban and Catholic schools open doors & portals

Lewiston and Tonawanda N.Y. (WBEN) "We're ready to go," said Lewiston-Porter Central Superintendent Paul Casseri, just before the arrival of students on the first day of school Tuesday. 

Lew-Port is offering hybrid and remote learning. "We have a little over two thousand students and about three-hundred have opted to go all virtual." He considers that a manageable number. 

Lew-Port is divided into 2 teams, green and white groups (the school colors).  Each group will report to school two days a week.

On the first day, Casseri said they need to figure out drop offs and pickups, with more families driving their kids, than in previous years.  

"This morning at the high school and at the middle school, we have new routing for drop offs. We want to make sure it moves as smoothly as possible. But it's going to take more time to sort out," he said.

Asked how the district is handling lunch, Casseri didn't hold back. "Lunch is not going to be as fun as it once was. There are individual desks in the cafeteria, 6 feet apart, instead of a large cafeteria table.   The students can take their mask off to eat their lunch.  After lunch, they can go outside for 15 or 20 minutes," he said.

Over at St. Amelia's Catholic School in Tonawanda, teachers and administrators have a little more time.  Principal Scott Kapperman says the school will open its doors and web portal to students on Wednesday. 

"Out of 500 students, 35 have chosen remote learning. The rest are getting 5 day a week in-person learning," said Kapperman.

Class size has been capped at twenty. But Kapperman says with the remote option, many classes are well below twenty.

Enrollment has increased at St. Amelia's due to the 5-day in person learning. "We've had a lot more interest in our school and many other Catholic schools as well. Many schools have a waiting list because classes are capped at twenty," said Kapperman. 

Every desk at St. Amelia's has a partition and desks are spaced six feet apart. Students are required to wear masks.

Specials, like music and art are offered, although some will look different than before. Gym will be held outside as much as possible. "If we can't have it outside, it will be in a classroom," said Kapperman. "Inside, they'll learn about nutrition or the history of music because we can't have them playing wind instruments."

New York State is getting ready to begin posting an online dashboard of daily Covid data for school districts across the state. WBEN asked Lew-Port's Paul Casseri where that data is coming from, and if teachers are under any form of testing mandate. "I don't know," he said. "We've been given no guidance with regard to that. Quite honestly, we may or may not know due to hipaa laws.  Me and my colleagues at Niagara-Orleans BOCES are scratching our heads over this.  We may or may not know about positive cases," he said. The statewide dashboard is set to go live on Wednesday.