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Jericho Schools First On Long Island To Welcome Students Back

JERICHO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Some students on Long Island started the new school year Thursday.

Jericho schools are the first of 124 districts in Nassau and Suffolk to welcome students back, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

Students got off the bus with a spring in their step and a mask on their face. They're mandatory for everyone indoors.

"I think it's fine. We need to stay safe, but I'm really looking forward to them coming off," said 12-year-old Gavin Karol.

The schools are providing all 3,200 students in the district with in-person classes five days a week.  About 80% of the district's teachers are vaccinated.

"We all feel that the masks are the best way to keep the kids safe," said Jill Citron, president of the Jericho School Board. "We were hoping to get them in 100% the way it was pre-pandemic, but it's as close as possible as this point."

"One of the things that we've suggested when we've had concerns raised from parents, both in terms of masking and vaccination, we said please talk to your pediatrician, talk to your health professional. When you go to your doctor and your doctor says you need an antibiotic, you take the antibiotic," said Superintendent Henry Grishman. "And if they say you should be wearing a mask indoors, then wear a mask indoors."

It's a far cry from last year's hybrid approach with remote learning and clear, plastic sheets dividing indoor workspaces. Still, some parents are choosing to homeschool their children.

"My very strong feeling is the best education your kid is going to receive is in school, in live instruction, in a classroom with classmates, where there's interaction with other kids," said Grishman.

Assemblies, field trips and conferences are on hold for now.

"I definitely feel that kids have some anxiety about coming back, particularly based on the fact that we have a lot of kids who were out of school for about a year and a half," said Raymond Velez, a social worker at Jericho High School.

The student lounge for chatting, snacking and decompressing is an active space.

"It's a great stress reliever, especially here. We're hoping for it to be over soon, we want everything to go back to normal, as usual. But, we're going to be patient," said Auiyan Istiaque, a student.

Schools are waiting to hear from Gov. Kathy Hochul about potential vaccination requirements.

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