STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Students in middle and high schools across New York City public schools will return to campus for the first day of in-person learning Thursday, as part of the city’s phased-in reopening amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in September that the city would start the process of returning students to school buildings in phases, with the academic year kicking off for some in-person and all remote learners on Sept. 21.
Students in 3-K, pre-K, and District 75 were the first to begin reporting for in-person learning on Sept. 21, followed by K-5 and K-8 students on Tuesday. Middle and high school students begin returning Thursday, Oct. 1.
“The plan is the right plan, but we have to make sure it’s implemented properly, is exactly right. And that’s what parents would want of us,” the mayor said when announcing the phased reopening plan.
Across New York City, students are returning to school buildings part-time under a blended learning model, or they are at home remotely full-time for the 2020-2021 academic year. Those participating in the blended learning model attend school one to three days a week — learning remotely on the other days.
And there are an abundance of safety protocols and procedures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus while kids are learning in-person, including faces masks and social distancing.
Whether blended or remote, parents have been coming up with creative ways to make the school year digestible for their children — but not without cost. Many Staten Island parents have been forced to pay hundreds of dollars more for school supplies this year compared to previous years.
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And school will look much different for students at Tottenville and Susan E. Wagner high schools.
According to the city Department of Education (DOE), Tottenville High School in Huguenot and Wagner High School in Sea View informed parents over the weekend that all students would receive instruction virtually — which means there won’t be the traditional live in-person instruction — but students in the blended learning model will still be on campus on their designated days.
The DOE said this doesn’t mean the two high schools are “fully remote.” Instead, students will be seated in a classroom — but will tune into their lessons via a device.
Students at the two high schools will be provided educational support by qualified educators in-person, in addition to receiving virtual instruction from teachers, the DOE said. That means that students at Tottenville and Wagner will arrive to school on their blended learning days and sit in a classroom to learn remotely with their device.
The DOE said this provides a continuity of instruction for students, while offering students critical in-person services, supports, resources and instructional opportunities.
PHASED SCHOOL REOPENING
It was a mix of excitement and jitters as preschool, special education, and elementary school students across Staten Island returned to public school buildings for their first day on campus.
The Advance/SILive.com visited PS/I.S. 48 and PS 9 in Concord, PS 56 in Rossville, and PS 78 in Stapleton for the first day of in-person learning on Tuesday. Joseph Newman, a kindergarten student at PS 56, proudly shared his big accomplishment on the first day of school: “I made my own lunch — baloney and cheese and mayonnaise.”
Teachers, staff and Principal Jodi Contento welcomed students back to the PS 78 campus as they arrived Tuesday morning.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of preparation and a lot of family communication and outreach, which can be challenging, but it was all well worth it to bring us to the point that we’re at today and to be able to open in the middle of a national health crisis,” Contento said.
Students in pre-K, 3-K, and District 75 were the first set of children to return for in-person instruction on Monday, Sept. 21.
“I’m excited. I wish he was going full-time,” said Chris Fattorusso, parent of eighth-grader Vincent, who goes to PS 37 in Great Kills. “I think, especially with special needs children, they need the structure — so I’m very excited. He needs this.”
A District 75 school, PS 37 educates students who are on the autism spectrum, have cognitive delays, are severely emotionally challenged, sensory impaired or multiply disabled.
HOW NYC IS REOPENING SCHOOLS
New York City’s schools closed last March in an effort to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus, and kids finished the school year via a distance learning model.
This school year, if new coronavirus cases surpass the 3% threshold using a seven-day rolling average, all school buildings in New York City will need to close once again.
The DOE recently released the 2020-2021 school calendar for New York City public school families.
The calendar for 2020-2021 includes some two dozen days off between the first day of school, on Monday, Sept. 21, and the last day of classes on Friday, June 25, 2021.
The nation’s largest school district is reopening school buildings amid the current health crisis as various concerns among parents and educators linger, including the possibility of a teacher shortage and the ability to advance the curriculum.
Catholic school students in New York City went back to school earlier this month.