Back to school! Yonkers begins 4 days a week in-person learning
Public school students in Yonkers returned to in-person learning today following months of being taught from home.
Yonkers Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada announced the decision to move from two days a week to a four days a week schedule for in-person instruction in March.
The decision came after a unanimous vote from the Yonkers Board of Education and pushback from local parents and students.
Yonkers is the fourth largest city in the state and has more than 26,000 students and more than 3,000 teachers and staff.
School administrators say there was a great deal of planning before moving forward with increasing the number of days for in-person learning.
The move coincides with New York state officials changing distancing restrictions, just this past Friday. They are following recent CDC guideline changes that allows students to sit three feet apart instead of six feet, which of course brings more students back to the classroom.
But, there are still safety guidelines to follow, and Yonkers school officials say they have plenty in place to keep everyone safe, including weekly rapid testing of a percentage of students and staffers.
In a letter to parents, Quezada outlined what the return to school will be like, including bus capacity of 50%, school auditoriums abiding by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and desktop barriers being installed when social distancing is not plausible. "The new requirements are three feet and wearing a mask in the classroom, but at the same time we have added barriers to further prevent the spread of the virus. We have gone above and beyond expectations," says Dr. Quezada
The letter also says that parents and students who want to be fully remote can still do so, but they also have the option to opt in when they are ready.
At-home learning is still being offered for those not quite ready to come back. At Yonkers Montessori Academy, about 75% of the student body has opted to come for 4 days. “Still easing some families in, they have to be confident that they're ready to do this," says Principal Dr. Eileen Rivera.
Students who spoke to News 12 say they've looked forward to this day for almost a year because getting back almost full time makes a big difference. "It means everything, especially how we were struggling with online school. Online school is not an effective way to teach kids, I feel like we need to be in school," says seventh grader Easelen Voagent.
The Yonkers Federation of Teachers says while it's happy progress is being made, when it comes to students’ education - we can't let our guard down with health.
The union is calling for guidelines that will allow COVID-19 testing data to be made public, and that teachers at a higher risk for COVID-19 be granted medical accommodations.