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Relief, Concern Arrive With Parents And Students On First Day Of In-Person Learning At Newark Schools Since March 2020

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Newark Public Schools students and staff went back to class fully in person Tuesday for the first time in more than a year and a half, but some other districts in New Jersey have delayed reopening due to storm damage.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge saw lots of the usual back-to-school jitters, coupled with COVID-19 concerns. There are a lot of new protocols in schools, like screenings and temperature checks, but most parents said they are just thankful their kids are fully back in class.

READ MORENewark Schools Detail Plan To Get Students Back On Track After Learning Gap Data Made Public

High-fiving on their first day, some 4-year-olds lined up outside South Street Elementary School on Hermon Street, filled with anticipation.

"My friend Kevin likes playing with me," one little one said.

"I like to go to school," another said.

But one mom said she was feeling a bit hesitant.

"I'm a little bit nervous, but then excited. Let's just try this week out and see what happens and we'll take it from there," Lima Thiam said.

READ MOREMeeting Over Masks In Schools Gets Heated In Wayne, New Jersey

Classrooms look a lot different than they did in March 2020, the last time schools were open for fully in-person learning. New filtration and cleaning protocols are in place, desks are three feet apart and have plastic shields to serve as protective barriers, and face coverings are mandatory.

"Wear a mask like all the time," a fourth grader named Barbara said.

"It's going to be very different and I'm excited to see my friends and new people, and the teacher," fifth grader Saulo added.


Despite the adjustments, many parents said in-person learning is necessary to their children's development.

"School is very important, them going into class, interacting with their friends," one parent said.

Down the road at Technology High School, Newark Superintendent Roger Leon was there to welcome everyone and answer questions.

"Each of our schools are contactless sites. Everyone is required to wear a mask. We require our staff to be COVID negative-tested prior to their return to work," Leon said.

READ MOREMurphy: New Jersey School Staff And All State Workers Must Be Vaccinated Or Face Weekly Testing

Gov. Phil Murphy issued a mandate in August requiring all school employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 19, or they must undergo weekly testing. Schools are also prepared to isolate staff and students or close, if necessary.

"They told me if the COVID, if it goes up, they're going to send them home, like remote," pre-K parent Zuleika Ruperto said.

Some districts had to delay reopening after last week's storm flooded several school buildings. Paterson and Elizabeth pushed their first in-person day to next week, and Cresskill middle school and high school in Bergen County likely won't re-open until 2022.

Educators say there is a strong emphasis this year on one-on-one instruction and helping students who got behind academically to catch up.

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