By Tony Aiello

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Many suburban school districts in our area are starting the new year by going remote.

Dozens of districts in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester have COVID cancelations of in-person instruction.

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As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, outside Lincoln Elementary in Mount Vernon, students’ first test of 2022 involves putting saliva in a tube to see if they have COVID.

Some parents were disappointed the district is all remote until the middle of January.

“I like to keep my kids safe. At the same time, two weeks is a bit much,” said parent Jackie DePaula.

At School 9 in Yonkers, third grade teacher Michelle Lopes sat in an empty classroom, with her students home for an extra week after the holiday break.

“You got a tablet? Perfect timing! How did Santa know we were gonna be online this week?” Lopes said.

COVID VACCINE

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It was a sudden pivot for Yonkers Superintendent Edwin Quezada, who last week announced a “test to stay” plan to open schools Jan. 3, but as results came in, the positivity rate was worrisome.

“We tested over 3,000 people. Seven hundred and forty of them came out positive,” Quezada said. “The district and I will not compromise with the safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

As school superintendents grapple with these difficult decisions the Biden Administration is urging them to find ways to keep kids in the classroom.

“We have better tools than we had in the past to get it done. We know what works, and I believe even with Omicron, our default should be in-person learning for all students across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The School 9 principal hopes parents understand teachers are doing their best to make remote learning engaging.

“We teach our kids the skills and the concepts and we give them the best that they need, but it’s always better in person, for both the teachers and for the kids, their social-emotional well-being,” said principal Dr. Michelle Yazurlo.

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She hopes the situation allows for return to in-person on Jan. 10, but note, it’s written in erasable marker.

Tony Aiello