BPS superintendent says district is in ‘much better place’ than last year

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In a “State of the Schools” address ahead of next week’s start to the new school year, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tonja M. Williams said the district has made improvements on issues that frustrated families last year.

To help with the bus driver shortage that was an issue last year, the district implemented a three-tier bell system. The system staggers start times for different students, which the district hopes will allow more students to get to school on time.

Last year, a bus driver shortage caused some students to wait hours at the bus stop, taking time away from learning. This year, BPS says it has hired an influx of drivers, including some from out of state, to address the shortage and cut down on those wait times.

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Despite the planned improvements, Williams asked for patience and understanding as the district adjusts to the new procedures and returns to the classroom.

“Always on the first couple of days of school in any district, there are things that can happen,” Williams said. “Everyobdy’s getting used to everything, this is new. But we have done a lot of front line work on it. We’re going to continue to do that.”

Another planned change by the district will reduce staffing concerns, but also reduce the amount of individualized attention for students with special needs. The district’s special education program will shift from a 6:1:1 ratio of students to educators to an 8:1:1 system.

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That means for every eight students with autism or sensory needs, there will be one teacher and one paraprofessional. Previously, there was a teacher and paraprofessional for every six students. Williams said the move was necessary because there are more students who require specialized learning.

Williams said the district will pay close attention to the impact of the special education changes.

The new school year starts next Friday, Sept. 8.

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.

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