BROWNSVILLE, Brooklyn (WABC) --More than a million New York City students headed back to class Thursday as the city's public schools opened for the first time during the 2016-2017 school year.
And the focus for administrators and city officials is expanding opportunities and getting those who are behind caught up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made a point to give seventh grader Chyna Huertas a special escort to her Brownsville school, which is part of a new "Single Shepherd" initiative that pairs every middle and high school student grades 6 through 12 in Districts 7 and 23 with a dedicated school counselor or social worker who will support them through graduation and college enrollment.
"This is the connecting point that these shepherds will do, and we think it's going to make a major difference in districts that most need it," Farina said.
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Rashina Sealy is one of those coaches.
"I've seen firsthand how much family needs support and how it trickles down to the students," she said.
One of the top priorities for school leaders is fighting illiteracy, and supporting the goal of having every third grade student reading on that grade level is another initiative that pairs literacy coaches to prepare kids up to second grade in four of the city's most impoverished districts.
De Blasio on Thursday toured schools in all five boroughs, including the KIPP Infinity Charter School in Harlem. Charter schools now enroll approximately 10 percent of city students, something de Blasio cannot ignore.
His hope is that over the next decade, 80 percent of the city's high schoolers will graduate on time and all students will be reading in the second grade.