More than a million New York City kids returned to class Thursday morning after a long summer break, filling public school classrooms and leaving their families back at home.
Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña also headed back to city schools on Thursday, conducting separate five-borough tours of five schools as they pushed the administration’s education agenda for the new year.
Their goal is to lay a foundation so that 80% of city students graduate high school on time and all students are reading in second grade by the year 2026.
They have their work cut out for them: Just over 70% of high school students got their diplomas on time in 2015, and only 38% of city kids passed state reading tests in 2016.
Speaking at Brooklyn Intermediate School 392, where both de Blasio and Fariña began their tours, de Blasio urged students to tackle the new year with enthusiasm.
“We’re here to say to you, ‘We believe in you.’ This is my message to every single one of you,” the mayor told students, educators and parents at the Brownsville school.
“You’re going to plant the seeds for a great future,” de Blasio added. “Everybody — even if you’re nervous — have a great first day of school, have a great year.”
Their school visit took place just a few miles from the Brooklyn School for Career Development, where a 15-year-old boy was arrested for bringing a gun to class.
The incident marred the first day of classes for de Blasio and Fariña, who have been accused of permitting the city schools to become more dangerous.
Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, whose union represents school safety agents, said the incident proves the mayor needs to increase safety in the public schools.
“First day, first gun,” Floyd said. “Why would de Blasio want to remove scanners from schools? It’s crazy.”
Over the summer, the Education Department and the NYPD announced a new policy to review data about scanners and determine whether to add, remove or use them part time at schools.
On Thursday, city Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness said all students and staff at the Brooklyn School for Career Development are safe.
As the student was being arrested, Fariña told IS 392 students Thursday morning that the city’s educators will support them, from pre-K all the way to college.
“You already know what colleges you want to get to. Now we just need to help you get there,” Fariña told the kids.
In her third full year as chancellor under de Blasio, Fariña has said she aims to build on new programs that bring added social services to hundreds of schools.
She also aims to boost academics — particularly reading — with the addition of hundreds of literacy coaches.
Further, Fariña is working to overhaul 94 troubled schools in a controversial program that has posted mixed results, despite the city’s investment of $761 million in added services and staffers.
But crowds of parents and kids at IS 392 were more focused on getting a positive start to the year on Thursday.
“I am very excited. This is a brand new school — it’s like a brand new start,” said Shafeqa Brothers, 38, of Brownsville, whose son Karam Carter, 10, just started sixth grade.
Karam said he was thrilled at the prospect of learning new things like algebra.
“I like reading and writing very much,” he added.