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Thousands of New York City students head back to classrooms once again

Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter greets a P.S. 064 Robert Simon student as children return to school on the Lower East Side, April 26, 2021.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Monday marked another first day of school for the New York City public school system as roughly  51,000 children previously enrolled in remote learning returned to physical classrooms. 

Students trickling back into classrooms were the latest cohort to enroll in the city’s blended learning, where students can take classes both remotely and in-person inside of school buildings, during the most recent “opt-in” window. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter opened a new enrollment window in March after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed their social distancing guidelines for schools to allow students to sit three feet apart in classrooms instead of six. 

To celebrate another first day of in-person classes, Porter greeted students outside of P.S. 64 on the Lower East Side.

“Nothing replaces the power of being in-person and getting hands-on support,” Porter said in Tweet. 

The return to physical classrooms represents a step towards normalcy for many students who have cooped indoors for over a year due to the pandemic.

Jonathan Schneiderman, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, was happy to finally return to in-person classes last month with the city reached a major milestone and reopened high schools in late March after the second system-wide shutdown in November.

“I felt like school was back,” said Schneiderman. Stuyvesant students are lucky in students are offered in-person classes five days a week. He didn’t realize how excited he was to return back to a more normal in-person school schedule until he realized during his commute he was running late for classes on the first day back and was actually excited to be “properly” late to school. Something that had not experienced in over a year. 

“I’ve shown up to class a minute later than I was supposed to because I’ve lost track of time or because of having problems with Zoom,” he said. “But I haven’t been late because I failed a race against time…one of those is very active and one is not and I was having the one that is active… you don’t know what you have lost until you have it back.” 

Although the number of blended learning students has grown, the majority of public school students have not returned to a physical classroom this year. About 650,000 out of the city’s over one million public school students are still learning completely remotely.

Mayor de Blasio plans on getting rid of blended learning this upcoming fall and instead only offer families full-time in-person or remote options. But while de Blasio has repeatedly pushed the positives of in-person learning and said most families want their students to return to live classes as soon as possible a number of families still fear sending their children back into buildings. 

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