West Seneca schools have new technology to help during winter storms

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB)- Almost one year ago a blast of lake effect snow caused a nightmare for the West Seneca School District.

Many parents were not happy with how school leaders handled the storm, telling us they were disappointed with the district’s communication.

“We never had any question about the safety of our students,” said Matthew Bystrak, the interim superintendent.

But he told News 4 they could’ve done better communicating with parents.

“Parents were calling and kind of inundating the phone lines at the elementary schools,” he explained.

This year, as a precaution, they’ve set up what they’re calling “go packs”, which is a pack of five phones for each elementary school. The five phones plug into one jack, each phone is manned by a district employee.

Bystrak said it will help them better answer a high volume of calls.

“If someone’s calling in, they’re almost put into a queue, basically waiting,” he said. “In theory, we could even have a message, ‘hey listen this is the status of the situation’ while somebody’s on hold.”

Bystrak told News 4 they’ve also installed GPS units on most of the more than 100 buses. It allows them to track where the buses are in real time instead of having to radio the bus driver.

He said they won’t send students home early from school, even if there are snowy conditions.

“If one child goes home to an empty house unexpectedly, that’s one child too many,” said Bystrak.

He told us at the school they have the staff, food and resources to keep the students healthy and safe. They start coming up with a winter weather plan days in advance and coordinate with other school districts through the morning of the storm.

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