PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Students were back to in person learning in Paterson Tuesday, with the superintendent on hand to welcome them back with just two weeks left in the school year.
It comes as teachers continue to complain about poor conditions at schools in the district, after pictures from the Paterson teachers' union showed rundown classrooms, filth and roaches.
Teachers posted similar pictures last week as well.
Regardless of the controversy, students and parents were on hand for the first full day of in-person learning since March 16, 2020.
Public School No. 21 students were led into the building with a parade, while at Public School No. 18, students were greeted by rounds of applause from the faculty and administration.
It was a significant milestone after 14 months of closed school buildings due to the pandemic, and district officials say they added several layers of protection and protocols before the students returned.
Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the decision to reopen schools to staff and students was based on the favorable data that indicated a significant decrease in virus transmissions and an increase in local vaccinations.
Shafer visited three schools -- the Dale Avenue School, Public School No. 15, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Complex -- where she greeted students and met briefly with principals and teachers.
"Today belongs to the students," she said. "They have been waiting a long time to return to their classrooms and be with their teachers, and this is a very important step toward bringing all of our students back to our classrooms. It hasn't been easy to make to this day, but it is a significant turning point in our efforts to restore in-person learning for students throughout our school district."
Shafer thanked those who made the day possible, including the Board of Education commissioners, the members of the Superintendent's cabinet, the Facilities Department staff, the Security Department staff, teachers, paraprofessionals, principals, administrators, vice principals, supervisors, school nurses, secretaries, food services staff, and all staff.
"I would be remiss if I didn't thank our parents and the members of the Paterson clergy who supported us in our efforts to reopen," Shafer said.
A total of 921 students were registered to return to school buildings this week in two groups.
The first has in-person instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the second has in-person instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The second phase of the district's reopening plan will be in-person Summer Enrichment Program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, remote for grades six through eight, and hybrid for high school students.
The district's extended school year program for special education students will also be offered in person.
The third phase will begin in September, when the district will welcome every student back to school buildings for in-person instruction.
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