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Wednesday, 14 November 2012 14:55

Child welfare after the storm

The day after Hurricane Sandy blew through the eastern seaboard, a social worker in Manhattan was frantic to track down a little girl on Long Island. The child is 2 years old and lives with her foster mother in a neighborhood that had been slammed by the storm. She had a tracheotomy when she was a baby, and needs a feeding tube to eat and an oxygen machine to breath. No one knew whether the family had been evacuated or where they were.

When the social worker finally reached the foster mother, it turned out she was at home, without heat or electricity. She’d been trekking to a nearby hospital to keep the girl’s medical equipment battery pack charged. “It wasn’t sustainable,” says Arlene Goldsmith, executive director of the child’s foster care agency, New Alternatives for Children. “But we hated the idea of separating her from the foster mother. That’s the last thing you want.” Instead, the agency—which had sent its fleet of seven vans to Connecticut to fill up on gas—was able to get hold of a generator. Once she had power, the foster mother also took in the girl’s brother, who’d been made homeless by the storm.

Even in normal times, child welfare is largely a system of crisis management: The city pays social service agencies not only to find foster homes for kids, but to provide services that prevent families from falling apart, working with parents before they come at risk of losing their children.

(Read the rest of this story, "Child Welfare in the Storm: What Happens to Vulnerable Families after a Disaster? "on the Child Welfare Watch blog)

 

Published in News and views
Monday, 12 November 2012 12:20

Free lunch in November, then price may rise

Breakfast is always free for students in public schools but this month, lunch is free too. The Department of Education announced that free lunch will be available to all students in November, thanks to help from the federal government in the aftermath of the superstorm Sandy.

In separate news over the weekend, the mayor's office released a plan that calls for students to pay more for lunch in 2013.

Students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches normally pay $1.50 per meal. That price would rise to $2.50 according to a proposal by Mayor Bloomberg which would modify the current Fiscal Year 2013 budget to deal with a shortfall. The higher price would bring in $4.4 million, the New York Times reports. The plan would also do away with reduced price lunches, according to the New York Post.

But for the month of November, students eat for free.

Here's what the Office of School Food says on its website: "School Food is pleased to announce that all school lunches for all students will be free for the whole month of November. Thanks to a special federal waiver, all lunches are free to all New York City students for the whole month. While the City continues to recover from Sandy, we hope you will enjoy our delicious and nutritious lunches at no cost. As always, breakfast is free for all students daily."

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 15:03

How to help schools in need

There are at least 43 schools still too damaged by Hurricane Sandy to reopen and many others which lost power and needed supplies. If you or your organization can help these schools, the Education Department has set up a way for you to do so.

The DOE posted a survey on its website asking for assistance from individuals and organizations. Those who can assist may simply fill out a survey, detailing what goods or services they can provide and how soon they can do so. The DOE will match the offers of help to the schools that need it.

Sign up here.

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 08 November 2012 14:00

Parent Academy launches Saturday

Chancellor Dennis Walcott will launch the long-awaited Parent Academy this Saturday at Long Island University (LIU) in Brooklyn, with a focus on aiding families who are victims of the hurricane. But, in the aftermath of the storm, it's not clear how many parents actually know about the event or will be able to attend.

In an email invitation sent to parent leaders on Tuesday morning, Jesse Mojica, head of the DOE's Division of Family and Community Engagement, said that Hurricane Sandy made plain the need for the community to come together at this workshop and, "identify the opportunities and resources for not only student success, but also those outlets for aid in the midst of Hurricane Sandy." 

The workshop begins with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and is open to public school parents, administrators and staff. The DOE and LIU, a partner in the Parent Academy, will provide guidance to help families apply for FEMA and other sources of disaster aid. Mental health experts will advise teachers and parents on how to deal with students affected by the disaster. Additionally, there will be three sessions at the workshop to tackle specific topics: preparing for parent teacher conferences, supporting better parent-teacher communication and, "how to become a more active and engaged participant in your child’s education,"said Stephanie Browne, a DOE spokesperson.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 14:31

G&T event reset, deadline extended

The Nov. 7 Gifted and Talented information session in Queens, cancelled twice due to storms, has been rescheduled.The new date is Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Frances Lewis High School, from 6-8 p.m. The Nov. 8 session at PS 121 in the Bronx is on. Education Department admissions officials will cover the G&T admissions process for students entering kindergarten, 1st, 2nd grade and 3rd grade in the 2013-14 school year.

Families now have until Nov. 16 to sign up for G&T testing for their children; that's a one week extension from the original Nov. 9 deadline. Most parents will submit the request for testing form online, but others may go to the enrollment office.

Parents who miss going to one of the sesions should be reassured that virtually all of the information covered in the sessions by DOE officials is in the G&T handbook (pdf).

One of the few bits of information not covered, that we heard mentioned at the Brooklyn and Manhattan sessions, was that 4-year-olds will not be expected to "bubble in" their responses. In fact, they are strongly encouraged not to do so. Parents who expressed concern that their children might be shy, or reluctant to go in to a room with a stranger, were reassured that all teachers administering the assessments are well-trained and accustomed to working with small children.

For more information, see the DOE's G&T page.

(updated Nov. 8 with new information)

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 08 November 2012 12:39

Displaced kids don't need papers to enroll

Children staying with friends and relatives or in shelters after Hurricane Sandy have the right to enroll in the school that's closest to their temporary home--and they don't need the usual documents showing where they live, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a letter to parents this week.

The Department of Education doesn't know how many children are staying in temporary shelters or doubled up with friends, but the number is certainly in the thousands. Some 26,000 students have been relocated to a different school because their school has structural damage or no power, a spokesman said.

On Thursday night, the chancellor said that students in relocated schools could enroll in schools closer to their homes, rather than travel to their school's temporary location. The chancellor's statement came after DOE enrollment officers told families that "only students whose families were displaced by the storm can enroll in different schools, not students whose schools were displaced by the storm," NY 1 reported. When asked about this by NY 1 reporter Lindsey Christ, Walcott clarified that students in relocated schools could enroll in schools nearer where they live.

Some neighborhood schools are already seeing an influx of displaced students. About seven children from the John Jay High School shelter attended PS 321 in Park Slope on Monday, said Principal Liz Phillips. Five more children who were living with families in the neighborhood also enrolled on Monday. "We’ll probably get a few more kids where families with kids ending up staying in the neighborhood," she said.

"A lot of schools are getting an overflow of kids," said Jennifer Pringle, director of NYS TEACHS, which runs a statewide hotline for schools and families about the educational rights of homeless children. And as some shelters close and families are relocated to other living situations, she said, "You’re looking at kids who are going to transition through several schools."

Published in News and views
Monday, 05 November 2012 17:18

Warm return to downtown school

Carmen Valdi lined up outside of PS 20 on the Lower East Side with her daughter on Monday morning, ready to return on the first day of school since Hurricane Sandy hit. Electricity came back on in Valdi's Lower East Side apartment on Friday but she still had no heat. She didn't expect the school to be any better off. "We're just coping," she told Insideschools.

But to Valdi's surprise, the school security guard welcomed Valdi and other parents and kids into a heated building.

Eight-seven percent of students showed up on Monday at the Essex Street school, said Principal James Lee. Not as good as PS 20's average 95% attendance rate but higher than the citywide attendance rate for Monday, for which the final tally was 85.2%, according to Education Department spokesperson Erin Hughes. 

Lee -- whose Seward Park home still lacks heat and hot water -- greeted parents and school staff on the way into school asking: "how did you do?"

Published in News and views
Sunday, 04 November 2012 19:57

Eighty schools remain closed on Monday

The Department of Education posted a list of 80 schools that will remain closed to students on Monday because they were damaged by the storm or are being used to house people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy.  The list also includes 15 District 75 programs for disabled children, two alternative schools and four charter schools.

Electricity has been restored to nearly all school buidlings. The buildings still sheltering storm victims are: Brooklyn Technical High School, John Jay Educational Campus and FDR High School in Brooklyn; Graphic Communication Arts and George Washington Educational Campus in Manhattan; Hillcrest High School in Queens; and Tottenville and Susan E. Wagner high schools in Staten Island.

Students at schools that suffered significant storm damage will be transported to other schools beginning Wednesday. Busing plans are still in flux.

Published in News and views
Sunday, 04 November 2012 12:13

Schools sheltering homeless open Wednesday

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced eight large high schools that are still sheltering people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy won't open to students until Wednesday, the Daily News reported. In addition, students at 57 severely damaged schools will begin classes in temporary quarters on Wednesday.

Most students will return to school on Monday. Schools are closed for Election Day on Tuesday.

The buildings still sheltering storm victims are: Brooklyn Technical High School, John Jay Educational Campus and FDR High School in Brooklyn; Graphic Communication Arts and George Washington Educational Campus in Manhattan; Hillcrest High School in Queens; and Tottenville and Susan E. Wagner high schools in Staten Island. The mayor had originally planned to have students attend classes alongside the storm victims, but changed course after staff complained that sharing space was unworkable. WNYC reported that many of the storm victims at Brooklyn Tech have mental and physical problems; that there was inadequate staff to care for them; and that some nursing home patients were having bathroom accidents because they couldn't make to the toilets on time. NY1 reported that the stench inside Graphic Communication Arts was so bad that even police officers wore masks. The Department of Homeless Services was trying to find alternative shelter for the displaced people.

The Department of Education posted a list of the 57 schools that are severely damaged, including Bard Early College High School, PS 126, Millennium High School and Life Sciences Secondary School in Manahttan; PS 15, Mark Twain, Bay Academy and Dewey High School in Brooklyn and a number of schools in the Rockaways in Queens. Students will be assigned to other schools until their buildings are repaired. Arrangements for transportation will be made Monday and Tuesday. The Daily News quoted UFT President Michael Mulgrew as saying "at least 45" of the schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year--until June 2013.

The Department of Education also posted a list of schools that are without power. The list will be updated Sunday evening. On a positive note, a Staten Island offical predicted that only two or three schools on Staten Island--the borough hardest hit by the storm--will be unusable Monday morning, the Associated Press reported, quoting Sam Pirozzolo, the head of the Community Education Council for the borough.

Published in News and views
Friday, 02 November 2012 17:11

57 schools won't reopen until Wednesday

UPDATE November 3: The list of heavily damaged schools that will not open on Monday was reduced from 65 to 57, the DOE announced late Friday night when it posted the list on its website. Of the 184 schools that did not have power on Friday, six regained power, leaving 178 without electricity as of 9 pm Friday. That number is expected to be reduced throughout the weekend as power continues to be restored all over the city.

Students at the 57 affected schools will not attend classes on Monday, or Tuesday when all city schools are closed for Election Day. Instead, on Wednesday, they will attend school at temporary locations that have been assigned to them. In some cases,entire schools have been relocated to one replacement location; in others, they have been split up by grades.

Hardest hit were the Rockaways in Queens. In District 27, some 20 schools are being relocated. In District 21, Coney Island Brooklyn, more than a dozen schools are being relocated. Students from John Dewey High School, where damage is extensive, are being sent to three different locations: 9th and 10th graders to Sheepshead Bay High School, 11th graders to James Madison and 12th graders to Lafayette. Four schools in Staten Island will be holding classes elsewhere, and six in Manhattan, including Bard High School Early College, whose students will travel to Queens to attend classes at its sister school, Bard High School II. No schools in the Bronx will be closed.

The school closings may continue to change over the weekend. We'll post updates as we get them, and be sure to check the DOE'S website for announcements.

Friday's report: Sixty-five Fifty-seven of the city's 1,700 schools hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy will not open until Wednesday, Nov. 7, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced on Friday afternoon. An additional 184  178 schools, many of them located in lower Manhattan, were still without power on Friday afternoon and it was not certain whether all would be able to open on Monday.

"We expect a sizable number to be powered up" by Monday, Walcott said, but noted that even if power returns, there may be more outages. The chancellor did not say which schools were seriously damaged, but Department of Education officials promised to post a list as soon as it is available.

Eight high schools will continue to house evacuees. Students will attend classes at these buildings, despite concerns about safety and hygiene at some of the evacuation sites. Ninety percent of schools will be open on Monday, Walcott said.

The DOE said it was possible some schools that move temporarily into other buildings will have a shorterned school day. That's what happened after September 11, when schools such as Stuyvesant, located near Ground Zero, moved to other school buildings for several weeks. Some saw their school day cut in half.

Published in News and views