As the new school year beckons for New York City students, some parents are fretting over sending their kids back on the subway and into public school buildings Monday - even as they’re prepping backpacks and stocking up on masks.

“I am thrilled for them to go back. My kids are thrilled and super-excited,” said Kelly Verel, whose two children attend PS 230 in Kensington, Brooklyn. “My thing is, I want a safe in-person option.”

Verel’s younger child has some medical conditions like asthma and food allergies that in the past have put him in the hospital four times, including once on a ventilator, she said. “He's not a kid who can brush it off, so I am incredibly concerned for him or like his sister getting it and bringing it to him.”

Marjorie-Hélène Dejean of Queens Village is homeschooling her two younger children, including one son who is too young to be vaccinated.

Dejean’s oldest son is vaccinated and ready for his junior year at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Richmond Hill, though she said she’s worried about his classmates keeping masks on and his exposure on the subway commute.

“He's really eager to just be able to go out and to go places and just to get back into the routine of riding the subway. Even though I'm not too happy about that, he has to take public transportation,” Dejean said.

City officials say their COVID-19 protocols for schools have proven to be effective, with Mayor Bill de Blasio touting the very low transmission rates during the past school year and the “gold standard” of the Department of Education’s COVID protocols.

Yet the changes in the city’s testing protocol has worried some parents, said Dr. Caroline Mendel, Director of Clinical Services, School and Community Programs at the Child Mind Institute.

The city announced this year it will test 10% of unvaccinated students who consent to be tested twice a month at every school. Last year the city tested 20% of staff and students who consented to testing each week, and students who declined to be tested were enrolled in remote learning.

“Some of the protocols seem to be less restrictive than last year. So I think some parents are concerned about that,” Mendel said.

Verel said she questioned where all the federal stimulus money that New York City schools received is going. “What is this money going towards to make these schools safer when we're doing less testing than we did last year, when we're asking kids to eat in group settings, when we're not really investing in outdoor learning?” she said. Verel is part of a group of parents advocating for students at PS 230 to eat lunch outside.

The question of lunch also bothers Yanhai Wan of Rego Park, who said he thinks the DOE should explore half-days this year and allow students to attend class in the morning and go home for lunch.

He’s particularly worried about his younger daughter, who is entering fourth grade and is susceptible to passing out when feverish. “There is uncertainty, and we have lots of anxiety,” Wan said.

Mendel of the Child Mind Institute said anxiety is natural, and parents should acknowledge their feelings to their kids.

“Rather than sort of dismissing any fears, or saying, ‘Oh, it's all going to be okay,’ you know, we can't promise that someone won't get sick, or that the transition is going to go 100% smoothly,” Mendel said. “But what we can do is we can say, ‘the emotions that you're experiencing, they're real, and they're valid.’”

Mendel added that reviewing school protocols as a family can help calm anxieties. “So to say something like, ‘I hear that you're worried about going back to school, it's understandable. It's been a while since you've been back in school in person. And I know you can do it, right. And we have XYZ protocols in place, or plans in place, to try to make this easier,’” she said.

Both Verel and Wan said they’re trying to prepare by acquiring masks in hopes of preventing their kids from catching the highly contagious delta COVID variant. (Masks are required in all NYC and New York State schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests making sure masks fit snugly against the face.)

“We are discussing whether we need to have high quality masks for kids to protect them, because it’s a new variant,” Wan said.

Verel said she stocked up. “I basically just bought as many as I could get my hands on for them that I felt were safe. And yeah, it's very anxiety-provoking,” she said.

There can also be more than COVID fears — Wan’s older daughter is vaccinated and will attend high school for the first time in-person, after spending last year in remote learning.

While Wan isn’t worried about the COVID risk for her, he has another worry for her long subway commute from Rego Park to LaGuardia High School in Manhattan: “For her, our concern is not about COVID. Our concerns are about safety on the street and subways. We have heard (about) a lot of anti-Asian attacks,” he said. “We have been discussing community safety.”

Mendel said that parents need to remember that this is the third school year affected by the pandemic and many kids have adapted.

“We've...been living with the coronavirus for some time. And so far we've seen that we can be resilient, that our kids can be resilient,” she said. “As long as we are doing things to help keep that consistency and structure for our kids — modeling using our own coping skills, trying to stay calm as best we can, validating our own feelings and our kids’ feelings, doing all those things you're showing up for your kid — that's really all that we can ask for.”