Some middle schools in New York City will reopen on Feb. 25 after months of shutting their doors due to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

While teachers and staff will return a day earlier in the US’ most populous city, around 62,000 middle school students in grades six through eight will finally return to classrooms.

Although it remains unclear when high school students might return to classrooms, de Blasio told a meeting at City Hall: “We’re certainly going to look at high schools next.”

NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza said on Twitter that reopening schools is an important step in “providing a safe, secure environment” for children to learn, adding “health and safety always come first.”

He said the department has been hiring additional staff to support its pandemic planning and response center, and it will conduct weekly COVID-19 testing in middle schools as those continue in elementary schools.

Elementary schools in the Big Apple reopened in December since younger students have struggled more with online learning, and they appear to have a lower rate of coronavirus transmission.

New York City public schools are the largest school district in the US, with more than 1.1 million students. Student enrollment in the city, both in-person and online, had dropped by 31,000 as of December since the start of the pandemic.

The city, with a population over 8 million, also has the highest COVID-19 numbers in the country, with almost 45,000 deaths out of a total 464,000 nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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