We’ll look at the many challenges facing schools in New York and New Jersey, as they struggle to get ready for students and balance the ongoing need to provide shelter to those displaced by the storm.
The hurricane that ripped through the Northeast last week has left a trail of destruction that impacts every aspect of the lives of the residents there – including the children. Many students and teachers are left without a school to return to, since the storm ravaged school buildings to the point where they are currently not considered inhabitable. In addition to the challenges of the storm clean-up, schools that are currently being used as shelters will have to find a way to allow students and strangers to live together harmoniously, at least for a short period of time. How are schools recovering from unprecedented Hurricane Sandy? Very slowly, in some areas.
Challenges Facing Schools
To understand the many challenges facing schools that were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, the Wall Street Journal
went inside the thought process of one of New Jersey’s superintendents. Dr. James A. Crisfield, superintendent of Milburn Township Public Schools, explained to the publication that many factors had to be considered before children could be allowed back into schools, including:
- Electricity - Many schools are still without power and they cannot reopen until electricity is back on.
- Gasoline – Gasoline shortages across the region have made it difficult to get sufficient emergency personnel and school buses on the streets. In addition, faculty and administration may not be able to make it to school, due to the shortage.
- Damage – Water and roof damage have been extensive in some of the hardest-hit areas.
- Transportation – Many of the school buses have suffered damage as well, and fuel shortages may make it difficult to get them back up and running. In addition, fallen trees throughout the area have made it difficult to get around some neighborhoods, making the running of regular bus routes nearly impossible in certain locations.
- Election Day Conflict – Some schools were slated as polling centers, but with damage to those schools, voters had to find other schools in order to vote.
The myriad of obstacles must be worked through by school officials – sooner rather than later, whenever possible. Everyone involved in the process agrees that the extensive time away from the classroom is not good for students. In addition, many of those students that enjoyed the novelty of time off school at first are getting weary of the experience.
“After people are forced to stay home for more than a couple of days in a powerless, heatless house, they tend to want to go back to school, bus or no bus. The glitter has worn off this sleepover, this camping trip…” Crisfield told the Wall Street Journal.
New Jersey Schools Call Off Long Weekend
Many New Jersey schools are bringing students back on what should have been a four-day weekend this week. NJ.com
reports that Mercer County schools reopened on November 8 and 9, days that were originally slotted as school closures due to the New Jersey Education Association’s annual teacher convention, held in Atlantic City. When the convention was cancelled, school officials decided to forget the four-day weekend in favor of getting students back into the classroom. Students and faculty who had made plans for the extended weekend will receive special consideration.
Schools Coming Back to Life in New York City
New York City, like areas of New Jersey, is struggling to bring normalcy back to their residents in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The New York Daily News
is reporting that as many as 200 city schools suffered serious damage in the storm, but all but 40 were ready to open this last week. Students will head back after missing a full week of school due to the storm and subsequent damage.
“I know this is a great inconvenience for parents who may be missing work because they don’t have anybody to take care of their kids, but the bottom line is that there are an awful lot of schools that have received damage or don’t have power,” Mayor Bloomberg was reported saying in the New York Daily News. “It’s just so many that in the end we need the next four or five days to clean up.”
Of the 200 schools that were not considered usable last week, 86 of those buildings were without power. Around 40 of those buildings were still without power at the close of last week, the day teachers were supposed to report back to work. They will reopen a couple days after the rest. Custodians are monitoring the situation at those buildings, with instructions to alert principals of the schools as soon as power was restored.
An additional 76 schools in the New York City area are being used as shelters for residents who were displaced during the storm. At this time, it is anybody’s guess when those residents will be able to leave the shelter for other locations. New York City Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the New York Daily News that shelter residents and students will have to learn to “co-exist” for a period of time.
Staten Island Works to Bring Students Back
Staten Island, another area that was hit hard by the hurricane, is also looking forward to resuming classes this week. Teachers will be working hard to get students back up to par on their studies after so many days missed.
“Missing a week is not something that is good for the education of our kids,” Mayor Bloomberg was reported saying at SI Live
. “Parents and teachers will have to work together to help get students caught up on their work.”