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Officials Fear Some Damaged Schools May Stay Closed for Rest of Year

By  Emily Frost Julie  Shapiro James Fanelli and Jill Colvin | November 2, 2012 10:13pm | Updated on November 3, 2012 6:34pm

NEW YORK CITY — Department of Education officials fear that some of the 57 city schools damaged by Hurricane Sandy could stay shuttered for the rest of the school year, insiders told DNAinfo.com.

The DOE was still assessing the level of damage to the each of these schools, but the department is particularly concerned about ones in storm-ravaged Far Rockaway and Coney Island.

"The fact is they really don't know yet, not all the intel is in about the damaged schools," a source said.

Students at the 57 schools will be relocated to other schools on Wednesday. Officials said they needed extra time to make arrangements and move supplies. The majority of city students will return to class on Monday after a week off due to Sandy.

The DOE has released a list of the damaged schools on its website. Originally, the number of damaged schools was 65.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced Saturday that students who attend the eight schools that have been used as shelters since the storm hit would also not return to class until Wednesday.  

“I went to visit a number of schools this morning and I saw the sharing taking place between the Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services in providing a vital service to residents who’ve been displaced for a variety of different reasons," he said.

"As a result of a number of schools having a tremendous number of residents who are there who are being serviced, I felt that we needed to delay the opening until at least Wednesday. That, to me, was in the best interest of both the children and the staff.”

The eights schools doubling as shelters are: 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.

There had been reports of urination and poor conditions at some of these locations.

“There were some conditions that were being addressed even while I was there,” Walcott said. "Several floors that had been used by residents had been moved, so crews were able to go in [to] clean.”

Mayor Bloomberg said Saturday that 178 schools still have no power. Officials hope to restore electricity to most schools by Monday.

Bloomberg also said that the DOE has called on a reserve pool of substitute teachers to work next week to help fill in gaps at schools. The department has also asked administrative employees with teaching certificates to work at the schools, a source said. 

Teachers and principals returned to schools across the city Friday morning for a day of planning in advance of schools reopening on Monday.

Staff from many Lower Manhattan schools gathered at Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City, which was not damaged in the storm and had power on Friday. The school served as a central meeting place for teachers and principals from the electricity-starved area to make plans.

Teachers at Murry Bergtraum High School, on Pearl Street near the Brooklyn Bridge, met with the principal and the NYPD at Stuyvesant on Friday to discuss plans for reopening, assuming electricity returns.

"It's back to normal on Monday," said Alex Pajaras, 39, who teaches social studies at the school. "Now we need the kids to come back," he added with a chuckle, "and I'm sure they're dying to come back."

Michael Locker, 34, a social studies teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School, said Friday afternoon that he was frustrated the Department of Education was not communicating with staff and parents far enough in advance.

"We don't know what the plan is if power doesn't come back on," Locker said.

"And how are you going to get all those kids informed?" added another teacher at the school, who said two-thirds of the students live in Zone A close to the school.

In TriBeCa, P.S. 234 suffered some damage in the storm, Principal Lisa Ripperger told parents in an email this week.

"The school sustained some flooding in the basement," Ripperger wrote in the email. "Our amazing custodial staff has been on hand non-stop since Sunday dealing with the situation. Their tireless work has helped to minimize the damage. The pets from the classrooms have been moved and are safely ensconced in an apartment with power and are being attended to by an excited 5th grader."