Finally, some students have gone back to school.
Monday marked the return of 90,000 pre-K, 3-K and District 75 students to physical classrooms this week six months after buildings shuttered their doors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New York City public school students were originally slated to return to schools for in-person classes on Sept. 10. But after repeated calls to delay to start of in-person classes, de Blasio gave in to demands and pushed back the first day of the hybrid school year until Sept. 21.
Mayor de Blasio surprised parents and teachers last week after announcing the city would delay the start of in-person classes again for most public school students. Instead, the city is rolling out a phased-in approach for those choosing to return to buildings.
Pre-K, 3-K and District 75 students are the first to return buildings. Children in K-5 schools and K-8 schools will return to buildings next week on Sept. 29, Middle school, high school, transfer, secondary and adult education students will return to schools on Oct. 1.
President of the city’s powerful teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew assured New Yorkers that there would be no more delays to the start of the hybrid school year outside of the Mickey Mantle School in the Upper West Side. The union has been critical of the city’s reopening plan despite having played a part in crafting it.
De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza greeted face-mask wearing students at the Mosaic Pre-K in Elmhurst, Queens on their way back to in-person classes Monday morning. Elmhurst emerged as the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City in the spring with a reported 3,564 cases.
“What we saw was a real devotion to health and safety and a devotion to social distancing, a devotion to the temperature checks, all of the smart measure to keep people safe,” de Blasio told reporters. “Everyone was wearing a mask, and those four-year-olds were wearing their masks with no problem.”
For months, parents and teachers have worried about how to enforce mask-wearing among the city’s youngest students returning to school buildings in the coronavirus age.
“We saw them out there in front of the school, they were wearing those masks, it was natural to them,” de Blasio added.
Today officials reported that 734 school buildings would reopen for live instruction and on top of that 1,050 community-based early childhood education programs. Mayor de Blasio claims that there are 3,600 preschoolers in the city’s “Learning Bridges” program which provides free childcare to hybrid learning students on the days they are not in schools.
Over the summer, de Blasio promised to create 100,000 seats of free childcare by the start of the school year with special priority to be given to Department of Education employees. But the city has fallen far behind on that pledge.
Earlier this month, the city announced that less than a third of those childcare seats would be available to students by the start of in-person classes on Sept. 21. Officials promised to bring 70,000 of those seats online by October and to have the remaining seats ready by December.
Families interested in signing their child up for Learning Bridges can visit schools.nyc.gov/learningbridges.
This story originally appeared on amny.com.