Some Long Island schools reopen but with emptier halls

The school bell rang inside Walt Whitman High where normally some 1,500 students would flood the halls between classes, hugging and giving high fives on their first day back. But this year, it was different, to say the least. Only half of the kids were in person while the other half learned virtually from home on Tuesday.

"It's going to be a learning process for both teachers and students and it will take a while to get normal and to adjust," said John Murphy, the principal of Walt Whitman High School. 

About 80% of the district's 6,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade opted for a hybrid at home-in person schedule this year.

Social distancing is in place and masks must be worn but no one knows how long this can work for.

"My job isn't to make a prediction," said Dave Bennardo, the superintendent of the South Huntington School District. "Our job is to say 'look for every day we're here we have to make this hybrid-day model work for instruction and then of course paramount is safety."

Just over 60 school districts on Long Island reopened on Tuesday. At Stewart School in the Garden City District, the kids and staff were smiling underneath their masks.

"To hear laughter and talking in the building, this is what school is supposed to sound like," said Keri Hand, an assistant principal of Stewart School.

The cafeteria and gym have been portioned into classrooms so kindergarten through fifth grade can learn in person Monday through Friday. 

"We've been planning for the opening since schools closed last March," said Kusum Sinha, the superintendent of Garden City Schools.

Another 40 or so districts are set to open on Wednesday through Friday with the last batch starting next week.

The Carle Place School District was supposed to start this week. However, the superintendent announced that the district will delay in-person instruction until further notice after a cluster of COVID-19 cases appears to be related to summer parties.

Cases of COVID-19 have been reported at a handful of other school districts as well. However, many of them are planning to still hold in-person instruction.

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It is FREE! Download for iOS or Android