They’re back — again.
Once more students could be seen lugging backpacks on their journey back into the educational system. March 22 marked the first time high schoolers have been back on school grounds since November. Even so, for many of them, it was business as usual.
With their backs leaning on the railings of Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology in Manhattan, they scoured social media one last time on their cellphones while others rummaged in their bags for a last-minute snack or soda.
Still, what is old is new again, and the young scholars were excited to be back despite the early arrival time of 8 a.m.
Alex Modragon is one high schooler who is relieved to be off the computer screen and back in the classroom.
“Actually, it feels great to come back. You know it’s kind of difficult to work remotely, so that’s why I am really happy to come back,” Modragon said, who will be attending in-person classes five days a week.
Since January, teachers have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations. For many students and families, this provides a load off their minds during the enrollment process. Modragon is confident that school is safe, saying: “I just can’t wait to be back.”
It wasn’t just students who were happy to be back. In celebration of the big return, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) hosted a back-to-school press conference with other educators to show their support of high school classes reopening for in-person learning.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew gathered with educators by the main entrance of 439 West 49th St., the campus area for Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School, The Business of Sports School and The Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, in Hell’s Kitchen.
“It’s been a long road and difficult year, to say the least. But as always, the people who dedicated their lives to helping children have always been there to make sure that they remain safe and we keep educating children in this very difficult time,” Mulgrew said. “Hopefully, now, all schools are open again and we hope to stay that way for the rest of the school year.”
Kirk Schneider, math teacher at the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, eagerly watched his students lineup to gain entry back into the school. This simple act has been a long-awaited moment for Schneider.
“We are excited to be back. This is what we do best. We wanna make sure that it is safe for staff and students. We want to be in-person and the kids want to be taught in-person. We are excited to do the thing we were meant to do, and that’s teach kids in-person,” Schneider said.
Inflatable balloons spelled out “Welcome back” but before the high schoolers were given access to the building, their temperatures were taken at the doors, after which they were sent to wait in the cafeteria prior to beginning the first school day in months.