NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Carlos Figueroa was asked what he has missed most over the past 13 months or so since he had last stepped foot inside Roosevelt Elementary School.

His friends? His teachers? Recess?

“I missed math,” the fifth grader said.

Carlos and thousands of students in the K-5 and K-8 schools across New Brunswick returned to in-person instruction for the first time since March 13. That was early in the COVID-19 pandemic when health officials were still gathering information about a burgeoning health crisis.

After some 13 months of remote instruction, the students and teachers reporting for the first day of hybrid instruction today were met by grey skies and intermittent rain.

It didn’t seem to diminish their excitement as they walked along Livingston Avenue, however.

Gabriela Ramirez, an instructor in the Students with Interrupted Education program, arrived bright and early, with a handful of balloons.

“I’m going to put them outside my classroom,” she said. “It’s to mark the first day back. It’s an exciting day. I want it to be special.”

Diane Knoblock, who teaches second grade special education, had two big bags of materials that she had brought home with her when remote instruction began.

“I’m happy to be back,” she said. “It’s not the same not being in the same room as those little people.”

In an interview with TAPinto New Brunswick last month, Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson said the school district polled the families of the 10,000 students in the school district. He said about half of them have opted for the hybrid model of re-entry.

When asked what will be the biggest challenge to re-opening, Johnson said, “I think we’re ready to go. We’ve been doing this for awhile. I don’t think we’ll have any challenges at all.”

The district began installing temperature-taking kiosks in its schools last spring. 

The district plans to be vigilant in cleaning the schools during re-entry. To that end, the district has hired extra custodians.

New Brunswick High School and New Brunswick Middle School are scheduled to re-open for in-person instruction on Monday, April 19.