Brooklyn parents hope for ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ school year as kids get back to school

A sign welcomes students back to school at P.S. 217, the Colonel David Marcus School, in Flatbush.
Photo by Megan McGibney

New York City public schools reopened for a new school year last week, and the thrill of a new beginning can still be felt throughout Brooklyn as parents pick up their children from school.

On Thursday, Sept. 8, more than a million public school students made their way back into their classrooms for fully in-person instruction resumed following the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new school year offers some differences compared to the 2021-2022 school year, along with some common concerns that occur whenever students return to their classrooms. Brooklyn Paper spoke to some parents to get an idea of what they are looking forward to — and what they’re hoping for their children this time around.

“There’s nothing to be concerned about,” said a Kensington mother named Nino, whose son attends P.S. 217. “My son is very happy. This school helps single moms. I have hope this [year] will be better than last year.”

Many parents Brooklyn Paper spoke to said they were relieved that some of the Department of Education’s COVID rules, such as mandatory mask-wearing for all students and staff, have been rolled back.

“You don’t realize what we’ve missed,” said Ditmas Park mom Shantal House, who has a first grader at P.S. 889. “You see faces for the first time. No mental gymnastics over masks, health checks every morning. The parents see each other each day and it creates community.”

A fellow mom at P.S. 889, Megan Tefft, agreed.

“For me, it’s more normal than past school years. This is the first school year we can send them without a mask,” she said. “I hope [the kids] feel really comfortable, meet friends and learn.”

Still, some Brooklyn parents are still keeping an eye on the pandemic — as well as other viruses and illnesses on the rise, such as monkeypox and polio.

Back to School Bash
Kids, pictured here at a back-to-school bash at Atlantic Terminal Mall late last month, were excited to get back into the classroom.Rubenstein Public Relations

As always, a big issue for some bringing kids to and from school is traffic and congestion.

One mom named Amy said her kids’ school — P.S. 139 in Ditmas Park — seems to have a better drop-off and pick-up system than last year. But two parents who send their middle schoolers to the Brooklyn School of Inquiry said knowing when the bus will drop off their children can be a big guessing game.

“It’s Brooklyn, it’s the traffic,” a dad named Michael told Brooklyn Paper. “This happens every year. The bus may come at 3:20 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m. Eventually, it works itself out.”

Standing next to Michael at the bus stop was a mom named Vibha. Both appeared anxious but optimistic.

“You got to be kind and understanding,” she said. “Be kind to teachers.”

Late last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona discussed school funding, teacher shortages, and the long-lasting effects of the pandemic at a panel discussion at Cypress Hills Community School. There, Kellyanne Griffith, a parent at MS 50, a community school in Williamsburg, emphasized the importance of compassion in schools — both for students and staff. 

“We need loving teachers — you have to have compassion for every person that is set before you,” Griffith said. “In order for them to pour into our kids, they need someone to pour into them also.” 

nydia velazquez and miguel cardona at cypress hills community school
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Rep Nydia Velázquez discussed the federal education funding that was passed earlier this year, which parents said isn’t enough on its own as schools struggle with the effects of the pandemic.File photo by Caroline Ourso

Overall, parents said this week they’re looking forward to a fresh start with fewer health concerns, and that they hope their kids receive a good education.

I just hope for our kids to be safe and learn, academically, socially, and emotionally,” said one Kensington mother who declined to give her name.

On the first day of school, Mayor Eric Adams spoke of the importance of getting back in the classroom.

“This is such a significant moment for us,” the mayor said. “Today starts the journey, 180 days of shaping the minds of not [just] the future leaders, but the leaders of today. We just have to get out of their way and allow them to lead. This is where students gather, learn, meet new friends, eat, exercise, explore and expand their minds in a real way.”

Additional reporting by Kirstyn Brendlen and Isabel Song Beer