BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — In an address on the State of the Schools ahead of the start of the new school year next week, Dr. Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Tonja M. Williams said the district had made improvements to issues that frustrated families last year.
To address the lack of bus drivers, which was a problem last year, the district introduced a three-tier bell system. The system will stagger start times for different students, which the district hopes will help more students get to school on time.
Last year, a lack of bus drivers meant that some students had to wait for hours at the bus stop, taking away their time from studying. This year, BPS says it hired an influx of drivers, including some from abroad, to fill shortages and reduce wait times.
Despite the planned improvements, Williams asked for patience and understanding while the district adjusts to the new procedures and returns to classes.
“Things can always happen on the first days of school in any district,” Williams said. “Everyone gets used to everything, this is new. But we’ve been working on it a lot on the front lines. We will continue to do so.”
Another proposed district change will reduce staffing concerns, but will also reduce individualized care for students with special needs. The district’s special education program is transitioning from a 6:1:1 student-to-educator ratio to an 8:1:1 system.
This means there is one teacher and one support professional for every eight students with autism or sensory needs. Previously, there was one teacher and one assistant for every six students. Williams said the move was necessary as there are more students who need specialized learning.
Williams said the district will be closely monitoring the impact of the changes in the special education area.
The new school year starts next Friday, September 8th.
Justin McMullen is from western New York and joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more about his work here.