BUFFALO, N.Y. — After spending large portions of the 2020-2021 school year learning virtually, Buffalo Public School students are getting an opportunity to supplement their education this summer.

The Say Yes Buffalo summer camps are not only returning to in-person sessions, but have expanded to 31 sites, serving more than 1,400 students from pre-kindergarten to 6th grade.

"This year, more children will be served by Say Yes summer camps, and that means they'll have the opportunity to regain the loss of learning time they experienced during this pandemic," Dr. Will  Keresztes, BPS chief of intergovernmental affairs, said. "This is incredibly important work."

The program has several key sponsors, including the City of Buffalo, Erie County and BPS, all of which are benefiting from federal stimulus funds as the region begins its recovery from the COVID pandemic.

"This year, we had the opportunity just to do a little more to bolster the work that's going on, try to have more children impacted, so this is an investment that comes very naturally to the district and it's part of our ongoing program with Say Yes," Keresztes said.

The program has already begun and will run six weeks through August 20. One key provision is students and staff will still continue to wear masks indoors.

"It's not required at this point. The different entities have said we're not requiring it anymore, but individual camps are welcome to make their own determinations," Say Yes Extended Learning Time Supervisor Dan Cross-Viola said.

Cross-Viola said with conflicting guidance on mask wearing, as well concerns about the Delta variant of the virus, the organization feels it's best to exercise an abundance of caution.

"We have two nurses on staff that are acting as health directors for the camps and they've been reviewing all of the recommendations that are coming out and we have relaxed several things from what we had had in place with the virtual learning support centers but ultimately with the unknowns of the Delta variant and other things, the upticks of cases that are starting to happen, we felt good to err on the side of caution, six week program and then we'll re-assess in the fall," he said.

The school district said the plan aligns with the guidance of its medical director.