Kids across New York City have had an extra-long holiday from school after Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Northeast, and for some children, it's going to be slightly longer.
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sympathized with families impacted by Sandy in a letter on Monday.
“I know you and your children are eager for life to return to normal and want to reassure you that we are doing our best to ensure our students are back in a safe classroom where they can learn,” Walcott wrote.
About 58,000 of the city's 1.1 million students did not go back to school on Monday, either because their schools were too damaged to be used, or in some cases, because they've been playing host to storm evacuees.
Brooklyn Technical High School, a public academy specializing in math, science and engineering and located in the Fort Greene neighborhood, won't be open until Wednesday. On Friday, the school was housing about 400 people, mostly elderly folks from nursing homes and homes for the mentally and physically disabled.
Originally, Brooklyn Tech's 5,500 students were due to return on Monday, but the city's Department of Education made the call that schools functioning as shelters would still remained closed. All New York City public schools are closed on Election Day.
Reports of unsanitary and dangerous conditions at schools that acted as shelters have raised some safety concerns. On Friday, a representative from the United Federation of Teachers showed reporters signs of feces and urine and other disarray in Manhattan's High School for Graphic Communication Arts on 49th Street.
“There is absolutely no way this building can be turned around by Monday,” union spokesman Alice O’Neill said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I have never seen anything like this.”
The New York Daily News reported even more graphic conditions, including lice and other vermin. Someone also apparently punched a baby.
Students from the 57 schools that were damaged by the hurricane and subsequent flooding will be relocated to other schools, sometimes split up by grade. Parents and students can look up relocations at the Department of Education's website.
“Every effort was made to avoid disruption of teacher and student programming, but we acknowledge that, in some instances, schools – receiving and sending – will need to make adjustments,” schools spokeswoman Erin Hughes told the Journal. “We appreciate the many sacrifices and accommodations that our teachers and principals are making.”
Even if schools are reopened, things are hardly back to normal. School officials at Manhattan's P.S. 126 Jacob August Riis advised parents to send their students in layers, since it was unclear whether the heat would be back on in their building on Wednesday, which is also when a nor'easter is expected to pass through, dumping additional misery onto an already soaked Northeast.
It's still unclear whether schools can function as both shelters and centers of learning.
Brooklyn Tech Senior Class President Ahmed Abdelqader told WNYC that some of his classmates didn't feel comfortable about going back to school if the shelter was still in place.
"But really school can’t be closed for any more,” Abdelqader said. "Losing out on one week is almost horrific. We have to catch up on a lot of our classes. You gotta do what you gotta do."