NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- It was back to in-person learning Thursday for roughly 62,000 middle school students in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza were on hand at one of those schools - Leaders of Tomorrow Middle School in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx - to welcome students back.
Some of them are going back five days a week, while others are using a hybrid schedule, dependent on available space and how many students have opted for in-person learning.
Meantime, the United Federation of Teachers still has concerns about the lack of vaccinations among school employees.
The 30,000 employees who have been vaccinated so far include teachers, principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and social workers. That number only includes those vaccinated at city run sites in NYC.
"The UFT represents more than 120,000 teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other school-based members," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "Even putting the most positive spin on the city's numbers, there are tens of thousands of staff who have not yet had access to the vaccine."
Teachers returned to middle school classrooms Wednesday to prepare for today's resumption of in-person learning.
It is the first time they were back since the city went all-remote in November.
The city's youngest students were brought back first.
Now, using the same model that's kept numbers low in elementary schools, officials say they believe middle schools can safely reopen.
But the big difference with middle schoolers is that they switch classes and aren't kept in pods like younger students.
The city says it has additional capacity to test students and staff each week.
"That commitment to testing has been one of the reasons the schools have been so safe. And we believe in it, and we know it makes a huge difference," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "A recovery of New York City requires our public schools to come back strong. A recovery for all of us means our public schools are there for our kids in every community."
The return to classrooms is a relief for some parents who say their children have had a hard time with remote learning.
"I've watched him go from an engaged, enthusiastic, curious student to a withdrawn, completely unenthusiastic, apathetic (almost) student who's just not excited about what he's doing," one mom, Nancy Schwartz, told Eyewitness News.
As for high school students, the mayor says he will have an announcement on a plan for them to return to the classroom in the coming weeks.
That plan is complicated by the fact that some of the high schools are also serving as vaccination sites.
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