NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of New York City students went back to school Tuesday for the first day of in-person learning.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, they had not set foot in school buildings since March. Their return comes as the reopening plan from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has come under attack, CBS2’s John Dias reported.
This is the biggest step of the three-part opening plan in terms of the actual number of schools. K-5 and K-8 grade buildings are now open for students who chose to return.
An overwhelming amount of parents at PS 188 in Manhattan said it’s not like they trust the city 100%, but they feel like they have to get their kids back to in-person learning.
“I definitely had to get them back into school,” parent Tommie Foster said.
For the single mother of three, sending her kids back to school felt like the only option. She has to work.
“Remote learning and having three different grades was kind of a lot, and then I work nights,” Foster said.
She is one of the many parents at PS 188 stuck in this position.
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“If he can’t go to school, I can’t go to work,” parent Keymani Hilman said.
But that means possibly exposing their kids to COVID-19. Some would argue their worries could fill up the open space between them Tuesday, as they waited socially distanced before entering the Lower East Side school.
“I’m a little nervous for my son, because I feel like the virus is still out there,” parent Rashaard Caruth said.
The city’s public elementary school students were the latest group to head back to in-person learning. Each child received a COVID-19 safety kit and got their temperature checked before entering the school. Kids said they already know the procedure.
“Keep your mask up and wash your hands for 20 seconds,” first grader Zahir Hilman said.
Despite weeks of protests and several delays, Mayor de Blasio was bumping elbows Tuesday with students as they entered school. However, he declined to answer questions as he was leaving.
At his daily press conference, though, he said the number of daily positive cases in the city is now above 3%, but not the seven-day average, so schools will stay open.
“We have not seen a day like that in quite a while,” de Blasio said. “We don’t want to see days like this.”
Watch John Dias’ report —
Students at PS 63 on the Lower East Side were in good spirits after their first day of in-person learning.
“How was school? Your first day of school?” CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez asked first grader Gabey Monteleone.
“Good,” Gabey said.
“What did you like about today?” Sanchez asked.
“Getting stickers,” Gabey said.
Many children have had little socailization since they were last in a classroom in March.
Fourth grader Jonathan Monteleone says the transition came easy.
“It was fun because we got to see some of the teachers, my art teacher and my regular teachers,” Jonathan said.
“It’s been a long time since you’ve seen your friends and teachers. What was that like?” Sanchez asked.
“It was weird because it wasn’t the whole class, it was like five students in the class,” Jonathan said.
“It was kind of hectic and kind of stressful,” Star Academy teacher Risa Schneider said.
Schneider and fellow teacher Ayana Goldman say they had a more difficult time adjusting to the new norm than their students did.
“I felt like I was spending a lot of time like, ‘no, sit down’ or ‘no, don’t touch your friends’ or ‘no, don’t share materials,'” Schneider said.
“While also managing 22 students that were also learning remotely at the same time, so it was a little all over the place,” Goldman said.
Tuesday morning, faculty and students that showed up at the Teachers College Community School in Harlem were sent home because two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The school is closed for cleaning and contact tracing until further notice.
Parents who were able to send their children to school are hoping this isn’t a sign of what’s to come.
“Hopefully everything remains safe. That’s the number one thing,” parent Nicole Monteleone said.
On Sunday, the principals’ union declared a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in the mayor and schools chancellor for their handling of reopening schools. On Tuesday, United Federation of Teacher President Michael Mulgrew said he shares that frustration.
“If the mayor would have listened in April and started planning with us in April, these issues would not have happened. It was the rush. It was the fact that City Hall made the decision to not engage in the opening of their schools until July,” Mulgrew said.
The next and last step is Thursday, when middle and high schoolers return to buildings.
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