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Tuesday marks first day of in-person classes for many of the city's youngest students

Posted at 12:02 AM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 15:00:11-04

NEW YORK CITY — Thousands of New York City public elementary school students returned to classrooms Tuesday for the start of blended learning.

New York City is the only major school district in the country to restart in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic, but while many kids are excited to go back, there’s still a lot of fear among parents, teachers and principals.

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza spoke about the process to reopen schools on the PIX11 Morning News Tuesday. Watch the interview here.

Juliana Mohabir is 5 years old, and Tuesday is her first day of kindergarten in the classroom. She told PIX11 Monday night that she’s excited.

Her school in Queens is one of about 800 elementary schools across the five boroughs reopening Tuesday.

According to her parents, only five additional kids are in her class and they’re sending her with masks and lots of cleaning supplies.

“I’m still concerned about sending her back but at the same time I can’t keep her way. You have to do what you have to do, for her education,” said her father, Brown Mohabir.

While 48% of NYC Public School students have opted for remote learning, tens of thousands like Juliana — who are in an elementary school or a K-8 school — will take the risk and head into classrooms, with masks and hand sanitizer as part of their school supply list this year.

Michael Perlberg, the principal at M.S. 839, told PIX11 he believes many schools don't have the resources to safely reopen this week.

The second phase of reopening schools comes as the city’s principals union gave the mayor and schools chancellor a no-confidence vote and asked for the state to take control of the public school system. The union says over 10,000 teachers are still needed for remote and in-person instruction.

“I get the concern from the principals union and will be watching the number closely,” responded Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday.

As teachers and principals scramble to transform classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums and gymnasiums into spaced-out learning centers, all eyes are on the city’s COVID-19 infection rate. If it spikes to 3%, de Blasio said he would close schools and pivot to full-remote learning.

Cuomo, however, said schools would not go full-remote unless the infection rate hit 5%.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers union, visited P.S. 15 on the Lower East Side Tuesday morning to make sure the first day started smooth.

Oct. 1 will be the first day back in classrooms for middle and high school students.