NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made a special visit to the Bronx on Tuesday.

He shadowed Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter to see how New York City schools are preparing to return to the classroom and, for some, the playing field, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.

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The Truman High School football team knows the drill, and you won’t hear any complaints about doing reps. The players want to play.

“I’ve actually been waiting to finally play football for real,” junior Sulayman Sita-Aonkano said.

“I’m actually pretty excited. It has been a year since I’ve been at any type of high school environment,” senior Conrod Martin said.

This will be their first full season, after COVID-19 cut last season short.

COVID VACCINE

Cheerleading the effort to keep schools open, Porter was joined by Cardona, who encouraging the team to get vaccinated.

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“In communities where there’s less vaccination, there’s a greater likelihood that we’re gonna end up having to disrupt schools again,” Cardona said. “We’re doing our job to protect you and protect your rights to play on the field. Help us out. Get the message out there. Do your part to keep your family safe, but keep school in-person.”

Right now, the city Department of Education is not requiring student-athletes be vaccinated in order to participate in team sports, but a lot of players CBS2 spoke with said they’re encouraging their friends and teammates to get the shot.

“Just get it. It’s on the safe side,” Martin said.

“My mom was like if you not getting vaccinated, you not coming to the field,” junior Delwyn Delosantos said. “I also want other teammates to get vaccinated, so we won’t have a cancelled season.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Secretary Cardona and Chancellor Porter also visited P.S./M.S. 5 in the Port Morris section of the Bronx to promote the DOE’s return-to-school roadmap, applauding students’ programs that support social, emotional and mental health.

“We all gonna come together and we’re gonna work together to be Bronx strong,” one person said.

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The excitement to return to school has been paired with the hope that they’ll get back to the classroom and remain safe enough to stay.