The first day of school for New York City public school students began today, albeit abbreviated, with 90,000 3K, pre-K, and District 75 students trickling into school buildings for in-person learning. Every other grade, along with students who already opted for fully remote learning, began school at home.
Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to a staggered start of in-person learning last week following pressure from school labor unions, and today’s limited return to school comes eleven days after a planned September 10th start date was postponed. Next week, on September 29th, students who are participating in the blended program at K-5 and K-8 schools will begin in-person instruction. And students in grades 6-12 secondary schools will head back to class on October 1st.
At P.S. 262 in Brooklyn, Dar-Nyia Bouzy headed to school just one day after she turned four years old. She was ecstatic to think about what she might do in class, which was to “paint and color.”
Her mom, Hadia Ballard, told Gothamist/WNYC there wasn’t a question of whether or not to send her daughter in-person.
“She want[s] to go to school so, there’s no point keeping her home. She likes school,” said Ballard.
Cheyanne Taylor is also attending pre-K at P.S. 262, donning a kitty-cat face mask, which she says she’s used to wearing. And even though she was a little nervous about the school day, she explained to her mom that she was inspired by characters from a favorite TV show, “Paw Patrol.”
Keeping with their yearly tradition, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza greeted students for their first day of school, this time at the Mosaic School in Queens.
“What we also saw was a real devotion to health and safety, a devotion to social distancing, a devotion to the temperature checks. All of the smart measures to keep people safe,” de Blasio said at a news conference in City Hall shortly after his visit. “Everyone was wearing a mask. The four-year-olds wearing their mask with no problem at all. That was one of the things that was the most striking. We saw them out there in front of the school, in the school, they were wearing those masks. It was natural for them. That’s going to be crucial to everyone’s health and safety. Even four-year-olds, three year-olds can do it.”
Alam Ahmed was among the parents dropping off their kid at the school. He saw his son Ryan off, then admitted he’s not entirely convinced the school is safe but had decided that his son has lost enough schooling.
“What can we do? We are ready. And they lost already five months, you know…so we can try and hope so everything will be good soon,” said Ahmed.
As a way of answering any outstanding safety issues at each of the system’s school buildings, so-called “building captains” have been brought in by the city Department of Education to assist principals in making sure the buildings meet pandemic safety protocols. Principals were made aware of the captains in an email sent just a few hours after children and staffers were heading into school.
The first day of school comes six months after Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of schools statewide as the pandemic raged in early March, resulting in NYC shifting completely to remote learning.
Ahead of reopening, the DOE formed School Ventilation Action Teams to inspect airflow in classrooms in public school buildings. To date, 96% of classrooms were deemed safe to re-enter.