Jada Bryan had her first first day of eighth grade back in October.
"It was only for like two weeks and then they closed it again, so we didn't really have school for a long time,” she said.
Like all middle schoolers, Jada went fully remote in November, when coronavirus cases climbed. But on Thursday, she and her classmates had a second first day of school, as the Leaders of Tomorrow Middle School in the Bronx joined other middle schools across the city in fully reopening.
"I'm actually glad we're back with the staff, with the teachers. I finally get to see my friends and stuff again,” Jada said.
Like many students, Jada found online learning to be more difficult than attending class in person.
"I'm glad because online was really hard,” she said. “When I didn't understand things, I'd have to email the teacher. But now that we're back in school I can talk to the teacher, you know, like face to face, so it's much better to be at school than to be online."
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza dropped by the Williamsbridge school to greet students with elbow bumps Thursday morning.
"Great energy in there, people want to be in, our kids want to be back, parents want them back, and the teachers want to be in school. It's looking good,” de Blasio said after a quick tour of the school.
Students attending in person must fill out health checks each morning before class, and 20% of students and staff are to be tested for COVID-19 each week. Students at Williamsbridge will attend five days a week, a welcome change for some parents.
"He's out, communicating with teachers and all, I'm just happy for him to be out in the fresh air,” parent Kaye Marshall said. “It's a start. Hopefully we're going to be safe and everything.”
Only about half of the city's middle schools will serve all or most of their students five days a week. Other schools will continue blended learning, students alternating between in-class and in-person instruction.
While some aspects of school during the pandemic look different, some things never change.
"I'm trying to meet new friends, be a good kid,” one student said.
About 62,000 middle schoolers are learning in classrooms, a decision they made last fall, leaving two-thirds of the city's 196,000 middle schoolers to learn remotely. So far, there are no plans to allow remote students another chance to switch to in-person instruction.