NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)New York City public school students celebrated the end of a difficult year Friday, and now the Department of Education is preparing to move forward.

The last day of school is always a celebration, but after an unimaginable year, Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools chancellor Meisha Ross Porter got in on the fun at PS/MS 34.

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“Did we think we’d be playing kickball on the last day of school in 2021? No sir, and thank god we are,” de Blasio said.

The rollercoaster of a year was delayed by negotiations over COVID protocols and marked by school closures due to COVID cases while juggling remote and in-person learning.

“I was mom, I was lunch lady, I was teacher, and it’s not only one. I have three at home,” parent Tiffany Velez told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

“It was challenging. The children, they had to get adjusted to online learning,” parent Sharonda Gantt said.

About 60% of students across the system have been learning remotely since March of 2020. Now, administrators are looking ahead to the fall, when everyone is required to return to school in person.

In Corona, Queens, schools are already determining students’ needs.

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“We’re doing assessments now to do little check-ins with students to see where they are, how much learning loss has occurred and how we can try to bring them up to level again,” said Beth Tekverk, director of early childhood education District 24.

The focus is on academic and emotional recovery.

“A thousand new teachers that we hired, 500 more than last year,” Ross Porter said.

Friday, the eighth graders at PS 34 were basking in their final moments of junior high school.

“I’m going to miss this year because I actually wanted to come more. It brings me to tears inside that I’m going to have to leave,” eighth grader Jayden Vasquez.

Of all of the changes, the students, perhaps, were the most resilient.

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There were 1.5 million COVID tests given in schools this year. The latest infection rate is less than 1%.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas