The first day of school for some of New York City’s students is nearly here: Monday, September 21st is the day when children who are enrolled in 3K, Pre-K and District 75 schools will start their blended learning programs.

Under the hybrid model crafted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, some 90,000 of the city’s youngest and neediest students who are enrolled in blended learning will finally set foot back in a school building this week for possibly the first time since March.

The rest of the school population will begin their blended learning in staggered starts: September 29th for K-5 and K-8 students, and October 1st for middle and high schoolers, as well as students in transfer school and adult education. And everyone starts remote learning on September 21st.

Under such a complicated plan, parents may have a simple question -- what will the day actually look like?

Based on information sent to families at three different programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, we take a look at how a Pre-K student’s day in school might unfold under the new protocols.


All school days are shorter this year, so expect drop-off to happen between 8 - 8:30 a.m. Schools have asked that families check their kids' temperatures and fill out health screening forms before coming to school. Families will stand in line to drop off students, on sidewalk stickers or painted indicators that show how to space six feet apart. Masks are required on everyone in line, including the students.

Students will be greeted outside school buildings by staff, and schools will conduct random or mandatory temperature checks with non-contact thermometers while school staffers dole out sanitizer. Schools will not use elevators for most students because of distancing requirements.

With all the new protocols, plan for extra time for students to enter school buildings. Some schools may allow parents to briefly visit the classroom in small groups this week if this is their kids’ first experience in school.


Students can bring their own masks and extras are a good idea to switch out through the day. Schools will also provide disposable masks for kids who don't have their own. Young students will be reminded to wear their masks and how to wear them properly to cover their mouths and noses, though students will be allowed to ask for a mask break. Hand sanitizer will be dispensed regularly to students.


Children will go straight to their classrooms, where free breakfast will be available -- looking at the DOE’s menu, milk, fresh fruit and cereal are offered every morning, and the special Monday breakfast is a Sun Butter Cup with graham crackers, grape jelly and 100% Fruit Juice. Kids will eat in their classrooms, and wash their hands afterwards.


New York City’s classrooms will surely look different under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended distancing guidelines. Some classrooms feature single desks for individual students, spaced far apart, with a central table with materials that kids can utilize one at a time. Another classroom might have two students seated at opposite ends of a shared table. Another classroom will feature dedicated areas for building blocks, arts activities, books, and kid-appropriate devices, visited by one child at a time.

Every 3K and Pre-K classroom will have a teacher and a paraprofessional staffer. Teachers will wear their masks in their classrooms all day, and some schools will provide surgical gowns for the teachers who have to help young kids with toilet training.

The maximum number of students per classroom is 18 children for a Pre-K class and 15 children for a 3K class, though schools are saying the high number of remote-only learning means much smaller numbers of students in reality.

A young Pre-K student might have about 20 minutes of instruction from their classroom teacher, followed by an hour of work time and small group activities in the classroom. The next hour could be time spent outside - one Brooklyn school plans to use the local playground for its movement period, and other schools are using hula hoops as a safe way to get kids active while staying far apart.


The DOE is not offering hot meals this year because serving hot food would require more proximity than distributing prepackaged meals, according to one school official. Free lunches are available to all students and will be individually packaged sandwiches or wraps, with sides of vegetables and fruit.

One example of the DOE’s lunch menu for Monday is “Assorted Cold Sandwiches (V) (Vegetarian), Ranch Carrot Snacker, Rold Gold® Heartzels.” Every day there will also be offerings of Peanut Butter & Jelly, Cheese Sandwich, Hummus Grab & Go, milk and fresh fruit.

Some schools will allow students to bring their own lunches, though it’s not immediately clear if this is a system-wide policy this year. (The DOE did not respond to questions about Pre-K programs submitted Friday.)

Lunch is served in classrooms during an instructional period. For the youngest students, the lunch period will be used for "fun, engaging and enriching" instruction, such as "interactive read-alouds, social-emotional learning, content through music," according to the DOE.

The DOE also said that free grab-and-go meals can be picked up by students for their remote learning days -- unlike the previous grab-and-go program that was open to all, it appears the food will be limited to students only. “Take-Out meals for students will be available on school days only, 9:00AM-12 noon,” the DOE said, at locations to be announced.

After lunch, some classes will have movement breaks such as yoga or dance.


Pre-K students still have rest time scheduled into their day after lunch, and some schools have asked parents to send fresh nap linens daily. The kids will be spaced apart, allowed to take their masks off while napping, and placed in alternating head-to-foot positions, one school official said.


After rest time, there might be a read-aloud activity. The classroom reading circles will be more spaced out, with children sitting in their own designated spots.


Under the shortened school day, dismissal can happen as early as 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. for Pre-K students this week. Parents or guardians will meet their children outside as they’re brought out the door by school staff.