Three large high schools opened to students Wednesday, even though they are still housing people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy. Two more buildings serving as shelters were scheduled to open on Thursday. In addition, thousands of students at 43 schools that were damaged by the storm have been assigned to attend classes at other buildings. Many of these students began classes on Wednesday and all will have new assignments by Thursday, the Department of Education said.
The DOE struggled to open as many schools as possible amid concerns about sanitary conditions at buildings that had been used as shelters for psychiatric patients, disabled people and families.The Graphic Arts Communications building in Manhattan, where very unsanitary conditions were reported over the past week, reopened Wedneday after all evacuees had been removed.
Brooklyn Tech, Hillcrest High School and Susan B. Wagner High School opened for students Wednesday but are still housiing storm evacuees. Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that students and the displaced people would be kept apart, using separate floors and different building entrances. "They will be in different areas, using different entrances," he told WNYC radio.
Several buildings that had been used as shelters are scheduled to open to students Thursday, including John Jay Educational Campus and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Brooklyn and schools on the George Washington campus in Manhattan. John Jay was no longer housing evacuees and custodians were working to clean it on Wednesday. However, FDR still had several hundreds evacuees, mostly families, on Wednesday, as did the four small schools on the George Washington campus in Washington Heights.
At Brooklyn Tech, the number of evacuees came down from a high of 500 last week to about 200 Wedneday, all of them relegated to the top two floors of the building, occupying the cafeteria and a gymnasium. The last few families in the building left late on Election Day, making their way through long lines of neighborhood residents who were waiting to vote. Students will be eating box lunches in the mammoth school auditorium, a volunteer worker said.
A letter from the Hillcrest principal, posted on the school's website gives details about how students will coexist with the "nearly 200 displaced people." Among other areas, the gymnasiums, dance studio and music rooms are off limits to students but the theatre is open. "Remember, these displaced people are our guests, treat them the way you would treat a guest at home or the way you would want to be treated if you were in their situation," the principal writes.
Wagner, on Staten Island, continues to host "100 displaced residents of Staten Island, and in some cases their pets," according to the school's website. "Shelter guests and pets are located in an area of the building separated from our students. NYPD Officers, additional school safety agents, deans and administrators will actively monitor this arrangement to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for our students," the website states.
The DOE made plans to relocate students at 43 schools that were damaged by the storm. Hardest hit was southeast Queens, where 27 schools were severely damaged, according to the list posted Tuesday. Some of these students are being assigned to attend school in Brooklyn with only Metrocard to make their way. Others are being provided with buses, leaving at 7 or 10 a.m. Also damaged were three schools in Manhattan; 10 schools in Brooklyn and two school on Staten Island, according to the DOE.
Some parents in the Rockaways say they will homeschool their kids, or even keep them out of school, rather than put them on buses, DNAInfo reports. A few suggest that the Education Department should provide trailers so they can educate their children closer to home. On WNYC radio Wednesday morning, Walcott said that the city lost several hundred buses in the storm so busing continues to be a challenge, but that some families will be reimbursed for cab service.