New York City public school students whose schools were displaced due to Hurricane Sandy can now enroll in the nearest school they can get to, the NYC Department of Education clarified Thursday night.
Thursday marked the first day since the storm hit that every city public school was open, but confusion remained among those whose school buildings were damaged and relocated miles away. According to NY1, many of the 43 displaced schools are not providing transportation due to a school bus shortage, making it difficult for students to reach their relocated school.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has been adamant that the city’s children should attend any school that is open and in close proximity to them.
"As chancellor, I would never advocate for anyone to keep their child home, even one extra day," he said.
However, NY1 profiled one third grader who was turned away from nearby P.S. 100, which is open and much closer than his former school’s new site. A DOE enrollment officer told the station it was because only students whose families were displaced by the storm can enroll in different schools, not students whose schools were displaced by the storm.
This contradicted Walcott’s statement on Tuesday: "You're able to go to that particular school near where you are living and enroll your child, and we're not going to ask for proof of address at all. You want that child in school and we want that child in school."
Thursday night, the DOE clarified that students do, in fact, have the right to enroll in a nearby school, with Walcott indicating that his department wanted to put it in writing “so people have a clearer understanding.”
According to the Associated Press, just 30 percent of students whose schools were relocated showed up on Thursday.
Those who did make it to school were subject to cramped conditions. The New York Daily News reports at Scholars’ Academy, which relocated Wednesday from East New York to Rockaway Beach, three classes were held in a large room that used to be the faculty lounge at Public School 13. There, students sat on chairs and tables donated by a classmate’s family.
The auditorium at P.S. 195 in Manhattan Beach remained flooded on Wednesday afternoon. At its highest level, the water was above the stage, said Pat Kennedy, the school's custodial engineer. Kennedy said he could not pump water until he received a generator, most of which were in short supply in southern Brooklyn.
"Catastrophic. Pure devastation," said Joe Modica, a custodian at Gravesend's William Grady Career and Technical High School. The school's boiler room and media center, both located in the school's basement were flooded with about seven feet of water yesterday.
Modica and about a dozen others — custodians, plumbers and electricians — were working in shifts to pump water from the school today.
P.S. 253 in Gravesend, about three blocks from the ocean. Con Edison trucks were parked outside many flooded schools in southern Brooklyn, where electricians disconnected power until the schools could be fully pumped.
The basement at P.S. 15 in Red Hook was also flooded with between five and seven feet of water, staff said.