The latest development in downtown Buffalo features lofty ceilings, exposed brick and a ground floor café open to the public. That might sound like a hotel or tech start-up, but it’s actually a high school.
Buffalo Public Schools celebrated the ribbon cutting of the new Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Thursday. The school first opened in 2015 as “Emerson Annex,” a sister school to the district’s flagship culinary arts high school, but is now at home in a refurbished historic building at 75 W. Huron St.
“Today is, you know, an emotional day, because as an educator and a new mom—I had my son three weeks ago—you always want the best for your kids,” said Principal Katie Schuta. “Today, we can truly say that we do have the best for our kids.”
Walking through state-of-the-art commercial kitchens, high-tech science labs, a brand new gymnasium and sixth-floor library overlooking the Buffalo skyline, it’s hard to disagree. The building also incorporates historical elements of its past life as the C.W. Miller Livery Stable, which was once considered a “Palace for Horses,” according to the blog Western New York History.
“A lot has been said and written about the renaissance taking place in the city of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “And as we stand in this new building and open this new school, it is clear that there is a renaissance taking place in our Buffalo Public Schools, for our young people, our students, our children as well.”
Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said the new school is part of the district’s Education Bargain with Students and Parents, which promised to open “New Innovative High Schools” designed to bridge the equality gap between traditional public high schools and the criterion schools P.S. #195 City Honors School and P.S. #156 Frederick Law Olmsted. The Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management is one of eight new high schools opened during Cash’s tenure.
In addition to the New York State Regents curriculum, students will have the opportunity to study culinary arts, sports marketing and management, hospitality and tourism at the new school, according to Principal Schuta. And the students are excited about the new building, too.
“Three weeks ago, [on] our first day, we were amazed. It was the best thing ever,” said junior Traevon Vance. “Everybody just always was walking around with smiles. We all took pictures. Snapchat—it was very loaded of just everything. Love it.”
Another junior, Lawrence Russell, said the new environment is changing how students feel about coming to school.
“From us being at the old school, we really didn’t care, ‘cause it was like an old building, so people just left it alone,” Russell said. “But being here, it’s like, ‘Okay, now we’ve got to get on top of our game. We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to actually do more in our school now.’”
Russell also said he hopes the impressive new building will encourage people to take the school more seriously.
“I just want people to recognize us more as a school and, like, a family. Because that’s what we are. Everybody here, we’re connected. We love each other dearly,” he said. “We’re just going to put Buffalo on the map and just open new experiences for us and our students.”
Amid the excitement, there was also a somber note to Thursday’s celebration as many speakers acknowledged the absence of the late Buffalo businessman and restauranteur Mark Croce, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 9. Croce was one of the building owners and a driving force behind the years-long redevelopment project. His widow, Jessica, and their son Dominic were also in attendance Thursday.
“I saw the twinkle in his [Croce’s] eye as he talked about a campus for students who are studying culinary arts and hospitality services,” said New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “I saw the twinkle in his eye when he talked about having a gymnasium onsite, and students not having to take a bus to go somewhere else to get the kind of services that they deserve. And I can’t wait to see the results of what happens here.”
Following remarks from Peoples-Stokes, Mayor Brown and several other local elected officials, Dominic Croce helped Superintendent Cash cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the school.