PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Monday was a special back to school day for kids in Paterson, New Jersey.

It’s many of the students’ first day back in the classroom since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported.

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Screams of joy could be heard during recess at New Roberto Clemente Middle School for the first time in 18 months.

“My daughter was so excited this morning. She was up at 5:00 getting ready to go to school, and she never gets up at 5:00,” said Corey Teague, a parent and board of education member.

“It’s an honor being with my friends, because we’d be talking about how we want to see each other and all that,” said Baron Hernandez, a student. “And that never happened for like one year now.”

The pandemic closed Paterson schools in March 2020. Students stayed remote for all of the last school year.

“It’s a great day in Paterson. As I walk around, I’m talking to students and faculty. They’re all very happy to be back in school,” said Superintendent Eileen Shafer.

This day didn’t come easy. Paterson, unlike many districts, stayed virtual for all of last year.

Teachers, citing health concerns amid the pandemic, resisted returning too early. There were also concerns over building conditions, particularly inadequate air conditioners and dirty air filters.

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“Everything has been addressed,” Shafer told Caloway.

“To say that they’ve been resolved, I would say that, for the most part, a lot of what needed to be resolved to get back into the buildings has been touched upon,” said John McEntee Jr., president of the Paterson Education Association, which represents teachers and school staff.

McEntee said there are still concerns about the buildings, but teachers are excited to be back.

COVID protocols remain in place. There are mask requirements (statewide), air filtration systems and students bring portable partitions with them from their classrooms to the cafeteria.

But many classrooms don’t have air conditioning, which makes masks, “Annoying because when you try to do work, it gets all the way up, and you’re all sweaty,” said 7th grader Sanai Sams.

Paterson was supposed to start school last week, but flooding from Ida pushed it back. Two schools are still closed and holding classes remotely because of flood damage.

Monday was also the first day back for New York City public school students.

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CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team