NEW YORK — With a countdown and confetti, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter on Monday rang in the start of a new school year in the Bronx — the first full reopening of the city’s school system with no remote option since March of 2020.

What You Need To Know

  • For the first time since March 2020, public schools opened at full capacity — with no remote option

  • Some parents said they were still nervous about sending their children to class, but were left with little choice

  • Others are excited about a return to something a little closer to normalcy

“It’s so good to see all our kids coming back to school, in person, where they can learn best, where they can see with their friends, where they can be with the teachers and the staffers who care for them,” de Blasio said.

For families outside P.S. 25 in the Bronx, returning to classrooms during a continuing pandemic was a day of mixed emotions, perhaps best summed up by 8-year-old Lucas:

“Nervous and excited,” he said of his feelings.

Why the nerves?

“I kinda never even been to third grade before,” he said.

For mom Brandi Davis, it was an emotional morning.

“To be honest, it's been a long year. He actually didn’t get to go to school last year because of the COVID situation and I was scared. I'm scared now,” she said. “But, he’s gonna bring his mask on and we're gonna be okay for the rest of the year.”

If she’d been given a choice, she said she would have opted for her son Bryce to continue to learn remotely.

But despite protests from parents, the city has required all children to return in person. And Bryce was excited to be back.

“It feels good,” the five-year-old kindergartner said.

“He wanted to go back to school,” his mom added. “He wanted to meet new friends. I’m not going to rip that from him.”

Lucy Baez’s son Oliver was also looking forward to socializing with other kids in person.

“Being at home was kind of tough, trying to get them the focus was very hard, but he stuck it out, and I'm proud of him, and we're ready for school,” Baez said.

The city has promised safety measures. Masks will be required indoors and out, and desks will be kept three feet apart, where possible — something some educators are skeptical will be possible in most buildings.

A portion of students will be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks. That’s less often than last year, concerning some parents.

“Our schools are the safest places to be in New York City,” de Blasio said. “We proved it all last school year.”

Porter says the city is ready to increase testing if necessary, and noted her own child was returning to class.

“I also sent my own daughter off to school this morning, so she’s heading into the 11th grade,” she said. “Parents, we are in this together, this is our moment, this is our time for our babies.”

Porter later toured another school, P.S. 121, with federal Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, giving out school supplies to students in the courtyard.

The day didn’t go off quite without a hitch — the online portal for families to submit health checks crashed, forcing schools to gather the information by paper, which delayed some student arrivals. The city said the portal was back up and running a few hours after school started.

The city says in the event of positive COVID-19 cases in elementary schools, a classroom will be closed with live online instruction for those in quarantine.

Close contacts of a positive case will quarantine for 10 days.

Other protocols are in place for middle and high school students when a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed.

Unvaccinated students in middle and high school can return to class after seven days of quarantine with a negative test.

Vaccinated students won't have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic.

The mayor opted not to institute a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students, although proof of vaccination is required for some sports and after-school programs.

The city is still in arbitration with the teachers’ union over a vaccine mandate for staff.

The deadline for teachers is Sept. 27 before they're removed from the payroll. They can return to classrooms once they are vaccinated.


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