NEW YORK — More than 1 million children across the city bade farewell to summer vacation and headed back to school Thursday pouring into 1,700 schools where thousands of teachers unpacked supplies and prepared to greet them.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott kicked off the day by speaking to students, parents and staff at the just-opened New Settlement Campus in The Bronx.
"Let me welcome to you to the first day of school," Bloomberg said after touring the gleaming new building in Highbridge with three schools, a library, a music room, a science lab, an indoor pool and a free health center in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
In math teacher Michael Morgan's ninth-grade class, Bloomberg reminisced about using slide rules for math when he was a child. The mayor and Walcott also toured teacher Rachel Garcia's kindergarten class, where kids sat cross-legged on a rug and eagerly listened to a reading of "Marco Goes to School."
"It's exciting! It's like I'm starting school all over again," said proud mom Erica Jordan, as she lead her daughter Shamarys Utshudi, 5, to her first day of kindergarten there.
The elementary school at the New Settlement Campus was one of the 55 new schools that launched on Thursday. And two dozen schools that were slated for closure under a turnaround plan were spared the ax thanks to a court order.
The new school year is also bringing many changes to the city's educational system, including an effort to mainstream special education students and the launch of a harder Common Core curriculum that teaches problem-solving and analytical skills.
There will also be a new texting program that will send updates to parents about PTA meetings and school lunch menus. Families can sign up for the tips and alerts by texting "nycschools” to 877-877.
The prospect of being back in class and seeing friends was exciting to many students.
In Chelsea, 9-year-old Colman Shaver said that he couldn't wait to start fourth grade at P.S. 11.
"All my friends are in my class," Colman said. "Science this year is biology and I like animals. This year I also get to skateboard to [school]."
Outside of P.S. 196 Grand Central Parkway in Forest Hills, Judy Nunez said her two children, Kelly, 10, and Brian, 8, couldn't fall asleep the night before the first day of school.
"They're very excited," Nunez said. "They didn't sleep all night. Neither did we."
At Park Slope's highly-regarded P.S. 321 on Seventh Avenue, mom Jackie Andrade said she was counting her blessings after son Noah got a seat in the school's sought-after kindergarten class. Andrade has lived in the school's zone for 30 years, but she uses a post office box, so she had to endure a home inspection to prove that her son was eligible to attend, she said.
"It was agonizing for two months before I got the letter [saying Noah could attend]," Andrade said. "The school is fantastic — the teachers, the PTA, everything. I just wish there was a school like this for every neighborhood."
Some new students worried about how they would fit in with their classmates.
"I'm nervous," said Mariel Alvaros, 13, who just moved to New York from the Dominican Republic two months ago and is attending J.H.S. 50 in South Williamsburg.
But others had an older sibling to keep them company.
Four-year-old Kyan started pre-K Thursday morning at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, with her older brother Leandre, a third grader, at her side to show her around.
"My son loves this school," said Shanaya John, the children's mother, who also attended P.S. 9. "So he's so excited that his sister is starting here."
Leandre said he was looking forward to math class and learning "more division," while Kyan said she can't wait to take Spanish lessons.
Not everyone was overjoyed by the idea of another year in the classroom.
"I'm not really happy about being back," Junior Santana, 16, from Flushing, said outside Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, one of the schools that was spared being closed. "I have to wake up early every morning now. That's not a good thing."
One day before school started, many families rushed to register, in the hopes of squeezing into their first-choice program.
On Thursday morning, some parents of kindergarteners had mixed feelings as they sent their children to school for the first time.
Baldomero and Stephenie Fernandez, who live in Hell's Kitchen, posed with their son Joaquin, 4, outside of P.S. 11.
"I'm just excited," Baldomero Fernandez said. "It's the start of his school career…. I'm not nervous. I'm a little sad too, in a way. This is him growing up."
With reporting by Leslie Albrecht, Elizabeth Hagen, Meredith Hoffman, Matthew Katz and Tuan Nguyen.