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Middle and high school buildings reopen safely

New York Teacher
STEM teacher Sharjana Rohman leads her 6th-grade class at JHS 259 in Brooklyn on Feb. 25.

STEM teacher Sharjana Rohman leads her 6th-grade class at JHS 259 in Brooklyn on Feb. 25, the day students returned to their classrooms.

Students line up before entering Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology in Manhattan on their first day back to in-person learning.

Students line up before entering Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology in Manhattan on their first day back to in-person learning on March 22.

Middle and high school buildings, which had been closed since mid-November, reopened after the mayor pledged to follow all safety protocols and agreed to a plan to increase the city’s school testing capacity to ensure randomized weekly COVID-19 testing could be conducted on 20% of staff and students in every school building. Middle school students who opted into blended learning returned to school buildings on Feb. 25 while high school students headed back on March 22. Additional federal funding for public schools made the increase in testing possible. Educators also had the opportunity to be vaccinated before returning to their school buildings, which many said gave them peace of mind. “In November, I was a little anxious, but now that I’ve had both vaccines, I feel ready to go,” said Cristina Cappiello, a teacher at MS 245 in Manhattan. Ivette Dobarganes, the chapter leader at the Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship HS in Hell’s Kitchen, said high school seniors were most eager to return to school buildings. “I teach seniors, so they’re especially excited to come back for the rest of their senior year,” she said. “Our teaching staff and administration have worked really well together, along with the union and our custodial staff, to ensure that our students and staff are safe.”