"We have to give this a chance," said one parent as the country's largest school system fully reopened for the first time in 18 months .
Schools in New York City reopened on Monday in scenes of joy, of relief and appreciationhension, while about a million children returned to their classes , most of them for the first time since the closure of the country's largest school system in March 2020 due to pandemic.
The day, still chaotic even in normal times, started with many families and educators worried about what the next months have in store for us, because the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated the city's pressure to fully reopen schools.
The complete reopening of the system represents a pivotal moment in the long recovery from the pandemic, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has staked much of his legacy on keeping schools open, even as other districts across the country have faced quarantiness and large-scale disturbances. Unlike last year, and unlike some other large urban areas, the city did not offer a distance education option for most students.
It remains to be seen how many parents will decide to keep their children at home anyway, at least initially. Last year, 600,000 children were registered for distance learning, and while the vast majority of those children appeared to have returned to school on Mo Today, a small group of parents have asked the city to resume e-learning.
Mr. de Blasio said he expected some families to initially keep their children at home to see how the first few weeks go, but he said he believed they would all come back eventually. . It is not known when attendance figures will be available.Meisha Porter, the chancellor of schools, said last week that the Children's Services Administration could intervene if families refuse to send their children away after several weeks.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the mayor said Monday will be remembered as " a game-changing day, a difference factor, a day of turnaround "for New York City.
Most parents accepted that it was time to go home. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, Debra Gray nervously dropped off her 13-year-old son, Kamari, who has asthma, at 323 Public School. "We have to give this a chance," she said. declared. “Children need time with their teachers. But I am worried. "
To reassure parents that their children are returning to safe classes, the municipal authoritiesThey have policies in place that include random testing, vaccination warrants for school staff, and quarantines for unvaccinated students.
But despite all the Planning, the online screening survey that parents are required to complete each morning temporarily crashed as hundreds of thousands of people logged in simultaneously.
Nevertheless, the day passed with few major hitches. All over town, students expressed their excitement and uncertainty about the New Year.
On a subway car with the air conditioning broken g in East New York, Brooklyn, 8-year-old Neriyah Smith said she was nervous and excited to see her classmates again after learning remotely all last year. "I made a lot of friends before I wason computers "she said.
In the Bronx, 14-year-old Jazlynn Gonzalez kissed and looked into the eyes wide-eyed at the students flocking to Herbert H. Lehman High School. "Ooh, I'm so scared," she said. "I don't know what to do, as people come by. me and I don't know if to say hello, I'm just confused. "
New York, who always starts and finishes her school year later than most other districts, is the last major system in the country to reopen. Los Angeles and San Francisco experienced very few epidemics in the weeks that schools were opened, while other districts that did not 'no face masks or other safety measures have seen massive student quarantines. In Mississippi , for example, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, there were 69 outbreaks in schools in the first few weeks of class .
Mr. de Blasio has long said that the city, once the epicenter of the pandemic, could not fully recover without the complete restoration of its school system, which will allow many parents to return to work. There are indeed encouraging signs: the city's Delta wave, which was modest compared to much of the rest of the country, seems to cap just at the start of the school year. Image Students from Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx took to thequeue to enter school Monday after the city 's online vaccination portal crashed. Credit ... Karsten Moran for Hfrance.fr
Monday's reopening capped months of planning and anticipation for the third consecutive school year disrupted by pandemic.
In May, amid a rapid vaccine rollout and rapidly declining virus cases, Mr. de Blasio announced that the city will no longer offer distance education to most students. (A few thousand children the city considers medically vulnerable will still be able to learn at home.) The coronavirus pandemic ›
His announcement received little attention. political resistance in the spring, but his administration faces increasing pressure from parents and politicians to reconsider. Some parents have posted on Twitter that they kept their children at home on Monday as part of a protest against the decision not to offer the option of 'distance learning, but it ' s not clear if this protest will last beyond this week.
Lots of most black and Latino families who kept theirThe children at home last year returned to the buildings. But some say they would have preferred to wait until at least their young children were eligible for the vaccine. Only children 12 and older are currently eligible, and it is expected that young children will not be eligible until the end of the year at the earliest.
Mr. de Blasio said the town is not planning to fire shots on eligible children, like Los Angeles did .
But New York has gone further than most districts in the country by implementing a complete vaccination mandate for all its educators , as well as all adults who workare worth it in school buildings.
The stakes are high for the hundreds of thousands of city children who have not seen their classmates and their teachers since the start of the pandemic.
In the Bronx, Jazlynn said her nervousness from the first day of school was more than making the jump from middle school to high school: it was about relearning how to go to school. "I used to be very talkative with people, but now I keep my distance and stay quiet now, that's what makes me more nervous," she said.
Standing outside Bayside High School in Queens, freshman Nate Hernandez, 14, said he was delighted to be back.
The online courses made him feel "a little sad and a little lonely too " he said, adding: "C it was difficult to learnndre to know people. But now Nate said, “I can't believe I got into ninth grade, high school. I'm like "I'm going to high school now. It's crazy. Image Students can access the city health screening app via QR code. Credit ... Karsten Moran for Hfrance.fr
Nailah Frederick, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bayside, said she regularly received A grades for her work until the start of the pandemic.
"I cannot learn online," she said, adding : “I didn't think my first year of high school would be like this. I havei missed looking around a classroom and having people around me. "
The mayor remained determined that The school year is proceeding normally, but with security measures in place. But there is still the possibility that a major transmission at school this fall could force many school buildings - or even the entire school building - out. system - to be closed temporarily.
Schools in the city saw remarkably low virus transmission in their buildings last year, but most schools had significantly reduced capacity. Yet even with a low transmission rate at the end of last year, quarantines were still a regular occurrence.
La New quarantine policy announced by the city will almost certainly result in frequent classes in short-term room closures. In elementary schools, where children are still too young to be vaccinated, a positive case in a classroom will result in a 10-day quarantine, and a move to learning remotely, for the whole class. Image The first day of school brought a wave of activity to Bayside High School in Queens. Credit ... Hilary Swift for Hfrance.fr
In middle and high schools, only unvaccinated students should self-quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus, which means unvaccinated students could have a much different school year than their vaccinated classmatesborn. More than 60% of New York City children eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose, but the city does not know how many of those children attend its public schools.
While the city's quarantine protocol is more conservative than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, the New York schools test plan is less stringent than the CDC calls it, alarming some parents and public health experts.
A 10% random sample of unvaccinated students whose families consent to the test will be tested at each school every two weeks; the city was testing 20% of people in all school buildings each week at the end of last year.
Testing will begin this week. Asked about the city's testing protocols on Monday, Mr de Blasio said schools may increase testingif necessary.
The city's modest testing program has made many educators uncomfortable, including the thousands of teachers who have received medical exemptions to work remotely last year. But on Monday, all the educators were back in the school buildings.
Justin Chapura, who teaches English as a second language at Bronx High School River, said he was nervous and had trouble sleeping before school started. But he was delighted to see students he hadn't seen. since March 2020, some of which have experienced major growth spurts.
"There's a million things going through my mind: everything is ready ? Mr. Chapura said. "Are all my copies done? What's my first class? What's my second class? Where's my lunch? What's going on?Do I have my coffee? I pre-ordered my coffee in the cab on the way here - nothing is going to screw me up today. "
Emma Goldberg, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.