People talked about several things last Thursday. The first heat wave of September hit, Hurricane Lee intensified to Category 5 in the Atlantic, Donald Trump’s indictments, Jimmy Fallon’s toxic workspace and it was the first day of school.
Public schools around New York City opened their doors to welcome approximately 1 million students — around the population of Delaware — for this academic year. Some could not wait to see their friends and teachers in the classroom. At the same time, others had the jitters about a brand-new start.
“My kid is very excited to come back, He is very happy here,” said Erina Hara, parent of a second grader at P.S. 81 Robert J. Christen School.
She added her son had mixed feelings about returning, too. “My older one graduated last June and now he’s in middle school — so his older brother isn’t here anymore,” she said.
But he is quite the performer, Hara said. Besides science and math, he looks forward to the school plays most of all. P.S. 81 shows off its students’ talents annually with singing and acting in front of hundreds of parents and students.
That tradition has gone on for longer than 20 years. The same year, “SpongeBob SquarePants” premiered on television in 1999.
For example, in 2019, before anyone knew the performance would be on pause because of Covid-19, a student flawlessly sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” a song by Randy Newman famously heard in Pixar’s “Toy Story.”
On the private side of Riverdale, SAR High School, which started a day earlier last Wednesday, welcomed back students from the last academic year and newcomers from its elementary/junior high school down the block from The Riverdale Y on Independence Avenue.
Megan Haller, a junior, said she was excited to return for another school year as it’s another year of “learning and making new friends.” Haller also added she cannot imagine going to another school.
“Junior year is notoriously difficult,” said Yair Wechselblatt, another SAR student.
Wechselblatt is also excited like many other students but has the jitters as he begins classes as he is taking a challenging course load this year.
“I probably miss the structure that school gave my life, although I had an amazing summer,” he added.
“Having a sturdy schedule and routine is comforting and a perk of being in school.”
Meanwhile, Haller claimed what she missed the most was her teachers. After building bonds with them for a good 10 months, she needs to do it again with several others.
She is sad that she can’t have them again.
“They’re so sweet and I’m going to miss their class,” the student said.
However, some exciting news over the new development of the high school is their expansion of a sports facility.
These students won’t be able to use since it isn’t due to be complete until 2025 after they graduate.
Parents were able to sigh with relief after the bus strike was averted for the first two days of school. It was possible that 9,000 drivers would walk off the job last week.
And again, for Monday, Sept. 11, Chancellor David Banks said the strike was averted another day. But the threat will not go away, a union spokesperson warned PIX 11.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 strike could affect more than 4,400 routes, impacting more than 80,000 schools within the city.
Drivers want a new contract and higher wages.
Mayor Eric Adams was even preparing for the worst. In a statement prior to the first day of classes, he said as a precaution the city will provide students with emergency MetroCards and reimburse for alternate transportation like Uber and Lyft.
The city would even reimburse parents who need to ride in an Uber or Lyft.
The city will reimburse at 58 cents per mile, with a maximum reimbursement of $200 per day — $100 each way.
The rise in ridership will please the mass transit system as its ridership is at 80 percent, leaving enough room for students and parents. Chief executive Janno Lieber said the MTA is ready for the challenge.
More than 20,000 migrant children have entered the already overcrowded public school system since 2022.
Meaning over the summer more than 3,000 have enrolled over the summer. And more are coming, Banks said.
“Many of the schools did reach capacity where students were zoned based on their locations at some of the emergency shelters, so we worked closely with our superintendent to identify schools within their districts that are just ask close to those zoned schools so that we can send students to those schools as well,” said Melissa Ramos, the chancellor’s chief of staff.
She added that if a district is full, nearby superintendents would work together to find schools with available seats.
But where will students go if all seats are unavailable? Portable trailers?
For the migrant children, entering a foreign school system poses many challenges.
There are more than 3,400 English as a Second Language licensed teachers within the school system.
And more than 1,700 certified bilingual teachers.
Patrick Fagan, the city’s education department chief talent/human resources officer, said the education department has hired 188 ESL and 175 bilingual teachers.
But there are still more positions that need to be filled.
The chancellor said the agency needs teachers in every subject, such as math, science and special education.
Although right now the agency just vetted 300 teachers coming into the system.
There has never been enough teachers who teach bilingual education and English as a Second Language if you have a license in another area but have a second license you can switch to that license and help them and keep your tenure, Banks said.
Banks is optimistic that they won’t have a teacher shortage.