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NYC Catholic schools welcome students back to class without COVID restrictions

Catholic school students return to classrooms across New York City
Catholic school students return to classrooms across New York City 02:26

NEW YORK -- Thousands of Catholic students across the five boroughs returned to class Wednesday, with no COVID restrictions for the first time since the pandemic started. 

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge visited a school in Hell's Kitchen, where there was so much energy and enthusiasm, students were literally blown away.

You can definitely say science class started off with a bang, as science teacher William Hawthorn showed how harmless liquid nitrogen turns into gas when released. The experiment kicked off the day at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic School on West 52nd Street -- and the students loved every minute of it. 

"We don't just learn stuff, we do stuff here," Hawthorn said. "We are an interactive learning environment here. These kids are going to solve all the problems of our world."

The young scholars arrived early, greeting each other with hugs and special handshakes, and said they were ready to meet their teachers' high expectations. 

"I'm feeling good going back and I'm excited because I haven't seen a lot of my friends in like two months. So it's going to be fun," seventh grader Jack Sullivan told Duddridge. 

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Some worked out those first-day jitters. 

"A little bit nervous because we have a new teacher," a fifth grader named Elysia said. 

All New York City Catholic schools will operate with full in-person instruction. There will be continued deep cleaning and ventilation, but all other restrictions have been relaxed. 

"This definitely feels like the first normal day of school in two years," said Principal Megan Gonzalez. "We don't have to stagger entries. Everybody gets to use the same door. There's no temperature checks."

Masks are optional, and social activities, like theater, lunch break and recess, are back.

"We can make our friendship stronger," fifth grader Lana Yewchuk said. 

"I like that they get the social experience being able to play with the other kids," her father, Chris Yewchuk, added. 

Students can once again intermingle across different classrooms. 

"Students learn best when they learn from their peers, when they work with their peers, when they can engage in teambuilding activities and exercises," Regional Superintendent of Schools Anthony Biscione said. 

Duddridge also met the school mascots, turtles Shelly and Sheldon, who have a rent-stabilized lease in the auditorium, slowing things down to help students focus on school work. 

New York City's 1 million public school students return to class Thursday.

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