By John Dias

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City public middle schools welcomed students back into the classroom Thursday for the first time in months.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informally recognized the city as a model for other school systems across the country, the teachers union says it still has concerns.

READ MORE: New York State Education Department's New Guidelines On Mandatory COVID Testing For In-Person Learning Create Confusion For NYC Schools

“Welcome back” posters greeted students outside Leaders of Tomorrow middle school in the Bronx. Even two red carpets aimed to hype up the already-eager students.

“Oh my God, back to school, yay,” middle schooler Kialaysha Sanchez told CBS2’s John Dias.


Nearly 62,000 students in grades six through eight who chose in-person learning returned Thursday after temperature checks and health screenings. They’ve been learning remotely since last November, and many experienced internet problems.

“Sometimes you’d be losing connection, and you can’t log into the classes,” Sanchez said.

“Online is too difficult,” said middle schooler Michael Thomason.

One eighth grader said she and her parents trust the school to keep her safe, but she still came prepared.

READ MORE: CDC Outlines New Guidelines On How To Safely Reopen K-12 Schools, Some NYC Parents Still Not Convinced

“I got the hand sanitizer in my bag and everything. No one needs to worry about me,” she told Dias.

Schools: The New Normal

Elementary schools resumed in-person learning in December, and the city plans on using the same model to keep numbers low. The big difference will be middle school students switch classes and they aren’t kept in pods.

“I’m watching the infection rate, and I trust that it stays down,” parent Karissa Marshall said. “If it goes up, then I’ll think about pulling him from school again.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio spent the morning greeting kids and taking selfies after getting a tour of the school.

“Kids are so happy to be back, and the teachers are happy to have them back, too. Everyone is feeling really upbeat,” the mayor said.

The president of the teachers union was not as thrilled. According to the Department of Education, roughly 30,000 educators have been vaccinated to date — about one third of the staff.

“We need to have more vaccine available, especially to anyone who’s coming to a building to work on a daily basis. That continues to be a challenge,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

MORE NEWS: NYC Middle School Teachers Concerned COVID Cases Will Spike After In-Person Learning Resumes

The mayor hopes to make an announcement in the next few weeks about when the city can open high schools. However, Mulgrew says the city still hasn’t proved it has enough testing capacity to do so.

John Dias