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WNY parents asking for full return to schools

WNY Students First

Parent advocates of the group WNY Students First gathered outside of the Rath building Sunday afternoon calling for schools to fully reopen.


Dozens of parents in downtown Buffalo wanted to send a message to elected officials and school district leaders-- give every student the option to get back in the classroom.

Tarja Parssinen, a parent from Clarence, said she thinks districts made the right call in the fall.

“Because at that point, there was still very little data and very little studies about what would happen,” Parssinen said. “We know now the science is there.” 

The CDC as of this past Friday are urging schools to reopen with new guidelines.  Parssinen said many parents can no longer wait. 

“Parents have been very patient, we've seen the toll that has taken on our family,” she said.

Parent advocate Jonathan Rich has kids in the Williamsville Central School District. He said he’s concerned about students’ mental health.

“My expectation is not that tomorrow, kids are going to go back to school,” Rich said. “But my expectation is that the leaders who aren't doing what they should have been doing since August are going to be pushed to make the hard decisions that need to be made.”

Rich said he doesn’t expect COVID to go away anytime soon, but believes there’s examples of safe ways to reopen. 

“We've made it work with grocery stores, we've made it work with restaurants, we've made it work with gyms, we've made it work with places of worship. And so I think, if all of those systems can continue to function during COVID, with masks, with social distancing and safely, I think that we also have to look at schools,” Rich said.

Rich believes schools should be able to open while being respectful to teachers.


"We're not looking to an older teacher with comorbidities to come back into the classroom just because students need to be taught," Rich said. "So we definitely understand their plight. We want teachers to know that we aren't working against them, we aren't trying to make them feel marginalized. 


WNY Students First leaders are asking the Erie County Department of Health to work with New York State, hoping students have the option to re-enter classrooms by early this March.


Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.