New York City public school students head back to class

September 9, 2013 4:42:56 PM PDT
It's a big day for more than 1 million New York City school children.

The backpacks are packed and the schedules are in hand -- it is the first day of school!

Officials are looking for signs of improvement after standardized testing scores using new standards were quite low.

The latest core curriculum testing revealed deficiencies in English and math, which led to a lot of criticism of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Walcott visited churches on Sunday and talked about what he and officials expect from the students.

"We're teaching in a different manner, and our teachers have been working hard and preparing for the new standards," he said. "We expect our students to be really thinking critically, analyzing problems, being able to support their answers. And really on the road to college and career readiness."

If you have questions for the chancellor, who will be answering them Monday on Eyewitness News First at Four, CLICK HERE to email them to us.

Walcott was out early Monday morning, welcoming students at Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics, a school for recent immigrants in Washington Heights.

"Our teachers have been training, they're ready to really educate our students," Walcott said. "Our principals have been working hard over the summer, so a lot of things are going on, and I think the challenge is always making sure our students are able to learn from the classroom."

Mayor Bloomberg dropped in for his last first day of school as mayor of New York City.

"The work is not going to be easy. It's not supposed to be. But I believe in you and your teachers believe in you," said Bloomberg. "And so when a math experiment is especially tough or math teacher assigns problems that take what seems like hours to solve, don't give up. Keep at it."

Teachers say the true test on Day 1 is to get all the students organized.

"In the beginning, we're ready to go, get everything started," said physical education teacher Julio Melendez. "We're excited about the new students coming in.'

"Day 1, we hope to have a connection with the students and get them all prepared for this year, and set them up with all of their lessons," said social studies teacher Valerie Hepner.

To help all those students get to class using public transportation, special MetroCards have been issued for the semester, complete with each students' name.

Some have commutes of up to an hour each way to get to classes every day.

For students who still need to apply for MetroCards and for other information about transportation, visit the New York City's Department of Education transportation page