First day of school for New York City public school students

NEW YORK (WABC) -- School bells and buzzers sounded across New York City's five boroughs Thursday for the first time since June as more than 1 million public school students headed back to class.

Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off the 2019-2020 school year at a Pre-K facility in Staten Island to welcome students to their first day of school.

He was joined by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Richmond Pre-K Center as the 3-K for All program continues to expand.

WATCH: Mayor de Blasio helps kick off school year on Staten Island

It is perhaps a day dreaded by students in the nation's largest public school system, but it is certainly a happy day for many parents as the summer vacation ends and classes resume.

The mayor has made early childhood education one of his signature issues, first unveiling Pre-K for all for 4-year-old children citywide and more recently 3K for 3-year-olds.

De Blasio, who is also running for president, visited schools in all five boroughs to usher in the new academic year, including the Urban Assembly High School of Music and Art in Brooklyn, the Bronx Leadership Academy II, IS 5 in Queens, and PS 146 in Manhattan.

One deeply controversial issue on the mayor's plate is whether to follow the recommendations from a task force to eliminate gifted and talented programs in favor of non-selective magnet schools and enrichment programs open to all students, a move designed to desegregate the system.

Many of the current gifted programs serve overwhelmingly white and Asian students, while the rest of the district is largely black and Hispanic.

The mayor said he is not touching the issue for this year and is still reviewing the hot button proposal.

"I think the big question here is how to reach thousands and thousands of gifted and talented kids that are in our schools that are not currently reached by gifted and talented programs," he said. "What's the best way to create a program that actually reaches all kids that have special talents and abilities, which I think is a lot more kids than we recognize."

The controversial proposal was a major topic of discussion when the mayor spoke to the press.

"Our Equity and Excellence agenda is working," he said. "Pre-K is helping to close the achievement gap, graduation rates are up, and more students are college ready. I am so proud of our students and educators. I can't wait to see what they will accomplish this year."

The mayor and chancellor also highlighted, 3K and Pre-K for All, Bronx Plan, AP for All, Computer Science for All, Bilingual Education, and Restorative Justice & Social-Emotional Learning Programs.

"Today, one of every 300 Americans sits in a New York City public school, each with a different story behind them and a different dream ahead of them," Carranza said. "As educators, it is our great responsibility to give each student the instruction and support they need to meet the high bar we've set. On this first day of the 2019-20 school year, we're focused on meeting each student where they are, knowing they are capable of reaching any goal they can imagine, and helping them achieve excellence. Let's get to work."

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