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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."

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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?"

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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.

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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
Thursday, 01 November 2012 19:55

Schools open Monday, despite storm damage

Schools chancellor Dennis Walcott says schools will open on Monday, even though some are still damaged by Hurricane Sandy and others are housing people made homeless by the storm, Gotham Schools reports.

“There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” Walcott said. “They will open. We know they’ll open.”

Forty-four buildings housing 79 schools, including John Dewey High School in Brooklyn and Beach Channel high School in Queens, are considered "severely damaged" and will need extensive repairs before they are safe, Gotham Schools reports.

Students from damaged schools or from schools that still do not have electricity will be assigned to other buildings. The assignments are still to be determined. Other damaged schools include  P.S. 253, Mark Twain School, and P.S. 195 in Brooklyn, NY 1 reports.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced that he would consolidate 76 shelters currently housed in schools into eight buildings. Those buildings will continue to be used as shelters after classes begin. 

These eight will be Brooklyn Tech High School, FDR High School and John Jay High School in Brooklyn, Graphic Arts High School and George Washington High School in Manhattan, Hillcrest High School in Queens and Susan Wagner High School and Tottenville High School in Staten Island, NY 1 reports.


Published in News and views
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 17:01

Brooklyn Tech houses 500 Sandy evacuees

Brooklyn Technical High School has been transformed into a shelter for some 500 evacuees, mostly from adult care facilities in the Rockaways and Coney Island. Brooklyn Tech is one of 76 evacuation centers (including many public schools) for victims of super storm Sandy. Classrooms have been turned into dormitories with cots. Department of Education employees are providing meals, but volunteers are welcome to help out.

When we visited this afternoon, some of the evacuees were outdoors smoking, others were seated at old-fashioned desks lining the hallways. Stacks of donated magazines and books were piled up in the lobby and a steady stream of volunteers came in to offer help. Several dozen volunteers, some Brooklyn Tech parents and teachers, all wearing orange vests, were already on the job, accepting donations of towels, which were in short supply, and offers of help. Volunteers are especially needed at mealtime -- from 6-7 p.m. for dinner, and before 9 a.m. for breakfast. 
For the Brooklyn Tech custodial and food services staff, it was a normal work day, as they mopped down the hallways and cleaned classrooms. The Education Department's food service workers are busy giving out meals but help is needed to help shepherd people to the 7th floor cafeteria, volunteers said.
There was no word as to how long the city's largest high school will be home to evacuees from flooded areas of Brooklyn and Queens and whether teachers and staff will still be sharing the building with them when they arrive back to work on Friday.
And, no word yet whether Saturday's specialized high school exam, to be given at Brooklyn Tech, is on or off. We'll post something as soon as we know. As of Wednesday, the DOE hadn't made a decision.
Published in News and views
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 15:16

Schools closed Thursday and Friday

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced public schools schools will remain closed Thursday and Friday. He asked teachers to report to work on Friday, but students will not report until Monday.

Some schools are still without power, and some are being used as shelters for people evacuated from flooded areas.

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Monday, 22 October 2012 13:44

Gifted or not? G&T info sessions begin

UPDATE: G&T info sessions set for Bronx and Queens on Oct. 29 and 30 have been cancelled. The next one on the calendar is from 9-11 a.m. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 1230 Zerega Avenue. See the DOE's website for updates.

Information sessions explaining New York City's elementary gifted and talented program begin tonight in Brooklyn. Parents will learn about the admissions process, the assessments used and what to do to prepare their child for testing which takes place in January and February..

The meetings, led by Education Department officials, will cover the nitty gritty of local admissions, but they won't touch on bigger issues, such as: What makes a child gifted? Can it be determined at age 4?

In New York City, young children are considered eligible for G&T programs, based on the results of two assessments, one verbal, testing a child's ability to follow directions by listening to instructions,  the other nonverbal, in which a child must recognize shapes and patterns and how they fit together.

Elsewhere in the U.S. there is little consensus about what determines a child's giftedness, whether G&T programs are advisable and at what age they should start. There is no national definition for gifted and talented programs and criteria for entrance into such programs varies widely.

Gail Robinson, an contributor, explores the larger topic of gifted education and what's happening on the national scene in three posts written for GreatSchools. Is your child gifted?  Gifted or Just Privileged? And, Your child is what?

Parents who are considering G&T programs for their child might want to give the posts a read.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 18 October 2012 15:41

Park Slope parents see rezoning plans

Close to 200 parents and neighborhood residents heard Carrie Marlin, director of planning for the Education Department, present proposed zoning changes for popular Park Slope schools on Wednesday night at a meeting of the District 15 Community Education Council. Joyce Szuflita of nyc school help was at the meeting. Here's her rundown.

District 15 Community Education Council President Jim Devor said rezoning discussions began two years ago around the collaboration between District 13 and District 15 to build a new and larger building in the Gowanus neighborhood to house PS 133. PS 133 was re-located to a small Catholic school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, while construction is underway on the new building which will open in fall of 2013 and will serve students from both districts.

At the same time, two popular Park Slope schools, PS 107 and PS 321, were becoming overcrowded and conversation began about rezoning those schools.

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