Back-to-school: From 600 new teachers, to masks returning -- here’s a look at the new school year in Newark

Newark, the state’s largest school district, headed back to school today, welcoming 600 new teachers to the district.
“We are just extremely excited to see the students on the first day of school,” says Superintendent Roger Leon. “We have an incredible year planned for them and we are just waiting for them to help us, join us in doing that work.”
Also new this year, the afterschool excel program begins earlier than years prior, and for the Board of Education -- a brand new board room. But returning this year will be masks.
“September will be extremely important as all 38,000 students and 8,000 employees convene for the first time,” says Leon. “We are monitoring the numbers daily in constant consultation with the Newark Health Department. We will be making the decision of masks being optional at the appropriate time.”
Students at Ann Street School, which holds close to 1,400 students kindergarten through eighth grade, are hopping their way back into the classroom.
“I'll tell you what really makes me feel really good is the sound of children in the playground,” says Principal Linda Richardson. “It's just a sound that gets into your system and never leaves you. So, when you hear it, it sets off all kinds of emotions. good emotions.”
The school is one of Newark’s highest performing, built in 1882, and has a proud principal who's going on her 50th year in the district.
“This school means the world to me, it's in my blood,” says Richardson. “I feel that I have a reason to be here. I think about that. I’m grateful to be the principal of this fine school with the best kids in the city of Newark and the finest faculty I could ask for.”
Richardson carries on the legacy of a school known for tradition, from the way notebooks are kept to the original auditorium. No food or drinks allowed. School mantras are posted everywhere.
“We are all about excellence and that's what we do,” says Richardson.
The goal this year for the district, like many schools, is to get up to speed after the past two years of living with COVID-19, and just to have a normal year for teachers, students and parents.