Students arrive for the first day of hybrid instruction at Enrico Fermi School in Yonkers Oct. 5, 2020.
Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Yonkers students returned to school buildings on Monday for the first time in almost seven months.
“Today’s a special day,” Superintendent Edwin Quezada said. “We are here all together, letting our families know that we are ready. We are prepared.”
It’s been a long road to reopening since Yonkers began the school year remotely on Sept. 8. The district has sunk over $10 million into renovating school buildings to prepare them to reopen even as the threat of state budget cuts loom.
Students arrive for the first day of hybrid instruction at Enrico Fermi School in Yonkers Oct. 5, 2020. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)
The Yonkers Federation of Teachers has repeatedly voiced doubts about the district’s ability to safely bring students and staff back. The union put out a statement last week implying the district was not ready to reopen.
But on Monday morning, more than 200 students trooped down Poplar Street to begin the in-person year at Enrico Fermi School for the Performing Arts, a 1,000-capacity building that educates preschool through eighth grade.
“It’s great,” said parent Francisco Alverio, after sending his daughters into the building for their first day of live first grade. “They’re excited. I’m excited. They’ve been looking forward to this all summer.”
For Alverio, the day’s excitement was worth the uncertainty that came with it. The masks, sanitizing and social distancing made the risk feel relatively small.
“This is an experiment,” he said. “Do I feel that my child is 100% safe? Absolutely not. But there’s no guarantee when you leave your home that you’re going to return.”
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The line outside Enrico Fermi stretched down the block. Children entered the building through three separate doors depending on their grade, looking like a parade of glittery backpacks, sneakers and masks adorned with their favorite cartoon character or sports team.
Parents were asked to fill out paper copies of a COVID-19 screening if they had not submitted it ahead of time, something they and any adult entering the building will have to do every day.
Board of Education President Rev. Steve Lopez directs a student as she arrives for the first day of hybrid instruction at Enrico Fermi School in Yonkers Oct. 5, 2020. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)
Students and their parents lined up six feet apart on the marked sidewalk. Children had their temperature checked and received a squirt of hand sanitizer and an enthusiastic greeting as they walked in the door.
Adults could only accompany their children part of the way up the stairs. Some lowered their masks for a quick kiss goodbye, and most stood in the street watching, craning their necks until their child disappeared into the school. It took about 45 minutes to get everyone in the door.
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“For the first day of school, this was an absolute piece of cake,” Quezada said. “We had so many adults that came to assist … by Wednesday, the way (Principal Mark Ametrano) runs this school, this will be a seamless process.”
As of last week, almost 17,000 students were signed up to return to school part time as part of hybrid instruction, with the remaining 8,000 electing to continue learning at home full time. Hybrid students are assigned to one of four “tracks” and will attend school two days a week. Everyone learns from home on Wednesdays.
In addition to taking all the state-mandated measures other districts are taking to keep everyone safe, Quezada hinted at a press conference last week that the district will have some capability to offer rapid testing at their buildings. More details are expected Tuesday.
“We are committed to keeping our children safe and our staff safe,” Quezada said. “This is what this is about: getting our children back to school.”
Sophie Grosserode covers education. Click here for her latest stories. Follow her on Twitter @sdgrosserode. Check out our latest subscription offers here.
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