By Alice Gerard
Grand Island’s students and teachers returned to classrooms equipped with two air purifiers each, said Grand Island Central School District superintendent Brian Graham at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
In 2021, “Grand Island was one of two school districts to obtain air purifiers in 2021, and Erie County is providing air purifiers this year,” Graham said, explaining the school district received 260 air purifiers from the county – enough for every classroom in the schools. “Erie County has purchased air purifiers for every classroom: private, public and parochial in the county. So, our children and teachers are returning to the classroom with two air purifiers to support their health and wellness.”
The return to school also means that many students have to adjust to different schools. At the Grand Island Middle School, a mentorship program, called WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) has been established to help sixth graders with the transition from elementary school to middle school.
“This program truly is a gem in Western New York and not just in Grand Island,” Graham said. “The amount of energy and effort is helping our new sixth graders have a comfortable transition from elementary school to middle school, and not just on one day or two days. This is a year-long effort to help our kids be connected to positive role models. Imagine 32 eighth graders who are trained as mentors, who will now have the opportunity to follow a sixth grader all the way through to 11th grade, to be their mentor. This is truly outstanding and should be celebrated. I want to thank our administrators and our teacher leaders who put this together.”
One of the mentors, Malcolm Hannibal, who spoke at the meeting as the Veronica Connor Middle School student ambassador, explained the program in detail: “We called the sixth graders and personally invited them to the orientation. The was the first step in establishing a connection with our sixth graders. Orientation day was all about forming relationships and having common experiences among our sixth graders. The sixth graders were welcomed into the gymnasium, with a lot of music, cheering, and clapping from our WEB leaders.”
At the end of the day, which included small group sessions and a themed tour of the school, the group ended the orientation “back in the gym where the students learned how it’s important to think about being influenced or being an influencer, and how easy it is to pull someone down and how hard it is to pull someone up,” Malcolm said. He noted the mentors were getting ready for their next session with the sixth graders.
“We will check in with them to make sure they are doing OK in the middle school, and answer any of their questions,” Malcolm said.