How the coronavirus pandemic has changed the return to school

JERICHO, Nassau County (WABC) -- It has been 18 months since everyone at Jericho High School has been back in the building together. In this district, often rated among the best, the school year began 2 weeks ago, and to say they've had to "shape shift" a bit since the summer would be an understatement.

"As we looked at last spring when the infection rates were so low, we really were so optimistic that opening is gonna be 'neat and sweet,'" Hank Grishman, Jericho Superintendent, said.

But the Delta variant changed that as may other variants that emerge. So mask mandates, hand washing, paperless classrooms, and whatever learning can be done outside are the new norms with full, in-person learning.

For high school seniors, it's those old traditions they're most excited about.

"I'm super excited for prom and battle of the classes, and all of the events that are gonna happen this year," Corinne Discpinigaitis, Jericho H.S. senior, said.

"Feeling the nest, you know, going to soccer games, going to volleyball games, going to basketball games," Sara Chan, Jericho H.S. senior, said.

Crowded hallways really show how different it is this year than last, and more people means more variables. And what if someone tests positive?

"The determinants that we use is 15 minutes of less than 3 feet and if that be the case, then you're a direct contact and you will be quarantined," Grishman said. "Vaccinated or not."

So far, so good.

At Success Academy in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, which was fully remote last year, it is a huge change so far for some of the youngest students and their parents.

"He seems to be a lot more focused because of the structure," Carlyle D. Forde, Success Academy parent, said.

At both schools they tell us it's the small moment connections they have missed the most.

"You meet your colleague, you talk about a particular student, and how they're doing," Matt DeMarinis, Jericho Math teacher, said.

Because let's face it - the alternative was "glitchy" at times.

"In zoom, it kept on freezing," Carlos Forde, a Success Academy 4th grader, said.

"l wouldn't be able to like type into my computer and use my stylus to write on it," Meela St. Hilare, Success Academy 4th grader, said.



They'll still embrace zoom, especially for P.T.A. meetings. The turnouts are bigger that way.

They are also embracing mental health more and just beginning to assess the COVID academic slide, but for now it's the thrill of being back.

"Since I get to see my friends, I get to have playdates with them," Forde said.

A reminder of what students in every grade value the most.

"I think grateful would be the best way to put it, to be back and to remember why we all started and why we all came into education," Chelsea Marone, Success Academy Fort Greene Principal, said.

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