COVID-19 1 Year Later: The New School

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez has more on how school districts and families all over the Tri-State Area continue to deal with remote learning as a result of the pandemic.

Video Transcript

- More students are returning to the classroom, but with masks, social distancing and random COVID-19 testing school these days-- a very different experience. CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez shows us how students, parents, and educators have adapted, and in some cases struggled to make it work.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: For most families, like the Lees from Manhattan's West side, working and learning from home has become the norm. They were just adjusting when we first met them at the start of the pandemic. Now one year later, five-year-old Katie Lee joins thousands of New York City public school students who are back in the classroom full time. Her eight-year-old brother Shane is hybrid, both following strict mask and social distancing rules.

- I could look at a screen all day, and now I have a neck problem.

- I just really want everything to go back to normal.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Getting back to normal has been challenging for the Department of Education and its more than one million students primarily bridging the digital divide. Private and public partnerships allowed the DOE to distribute more than half a million devices with internet. When schools reopened in the fall, air purifiers were distributed to classrooms with poor ventilation, including Alexis Neider's classroom at the neighborhood school in PS 69 on the Lower East Side. But her classroom, and many others, are still relying on open window ventilation, even during the freezing, winter months.

ALEXIS NEIDER: If we have to be there, we have to be cold.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Now parents must consent to random weekly COVID-19 testing to return to in-person learning, with only 20% of students tested. High schools remain fully remote.

ALEXIS NEIDER: We are really advocating for 100% of children and staff to be tested every week.

JOANNA TSIMPEDES: To be honest, we never thought it would be March 2021, and we would still be in the same situation.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Joanna Tsimpedes is the Assistant Superintendent for Paterson, New Jersey schools, fully remote since the pandemic began. Thanks in part to funding from the CARES Act, all 26,000 of its students from preschool through high school are equipped with a Chromebook with internet.

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy in Bell Harbor, Queens, was able to safely reopen in the fall for its 560 plus students-- K through 5 full time, 6th through 8th hybrid. Despite the re-opening success, Principal Chris Scharbach says his students, like many others, are still making up for lost time.

CHRIS SCHARBACH: There are definitely academic gaps that have to now be filled in this school year and beyond.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: Some schools have adjusted well to this new normal, but there's so much to be done to make sure students can succeed moving forward. Educators say the key will be investing in remote learning, training, and technology, and possible in-person summer programming.

JOANNA TSIMPEDES: And really, not just tackling the academic piece, but the social emotional extracurricular, fitness-- getting these kids up and active.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: With the resignation of Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, New York City public schools will now look to his successor, Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Porter, to lead students into the new normal in education.

MEISHA PORTER: I see so many opportunities to leverage the work that is starting to really move our school system forward.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: COVID-19 uncertainties leaving so many lessons to learn along the way. Hazel Sanchez CBS 2 News.