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Some Schools Reopen Without Heat or Food in Sandy Aftermath

By DNAinfo Staff | November 5, 2012 10:54am | Updated on November 5, 2012 3:24pm

NEW YORK CITY — More than 1 million students returned to school on Monday, some with little or no heat or food, as parents and kids alike struggled to get back to normal after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

P.S. 206, P.S. 112 and P.S. 37, which are all housed at 535 East 119th St. in East Harlem, were without heat on Monday, and students, teachers and administrators were all wearing jackets indoors, sources said.

P.S. 226 at 345 E. 15th St. in Gramercy, which houses a special needs school for autistic children, was also without heat, as was the American Sign Language & English Secondary School at 225 E. 23rd St., which warned parents on their website to dress children in layers.

And P.S. 42 at 71 Hester St. on the Lower East Side didn't have food to feed students lunch, sources said. 

Adding to the confusion was the fact that more than 100 schools remained closed across the city, either due to damage or because they were being used for shelter.

The High School of Graphic Communication Arts at 439 W. 49th St. in Hell's Kitchen is one of 16 schools still serving as an emergency shelter, and was closed to students Monday.

Inside, workers sorted fresh food into boxes.

On the fourth floor of the six floor building, families lay on cots, including a young girl huddled in a blanket and a baby sipping on a bottle.

Outside, students unaware that their school was closed were being turned away.

"I didn't get no info, to tell you the truth," said one 17-year-old student, who said he has been staying at his grandmother's house since the roof of his apartment collapsed.

The student said he was scheduled to take the SAT on Nov. 4, but they were rescheduled to Nov. 18 because of the storm.

He's worried that he won't be ready for the test since he's been out of school for a week now.

"We're lost pretty much. I'm not going to be on be on track," he said, adding, "I wish there was school."

The city anticipates that the remaining 16 schools currently being used as emergency shelters would be back in session on Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a Monday afternoon press conference.

Either the shelters will be moved or separate entrances would be used, the Mayor said.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said on Monday that missed days would eventually be made up, though the Department of Education has not yet set a schedule.

"Our goal was to open today," Walcott said.

Some students in damaged schools that were open had to be shuffled from their regular classrooms. 

A few classrooms in the P.S. 234 Annex in TriBeCa had to be shuffled back to the main building  a few doors down on Warren Street after suffering extensive damage during last week’s storm.

“It’s like starting school all over again,” said mom Michelle Robinson, whose 6-year-old son Finn’s first grade classroom is in the Annex.

At P.S. 107 at 1301 8th Ave. in Park Slope, smiling students streamed into the play yard to line up for morning drop-off as parents watched happily.

Mom Sarah Schenck said her two daughters, Aurora, 7, and Isis, 5, were glad to come back to school.

"Everybody's happy to go back," Schenck said. "It was a hard week for the city in a lot of ways, and I would say the least serious was school being off. It's nice to see the city getting back on its feet."

Schenck said her family passed the time by baking oat cakes and lemon sugar cookies, which was good practice for the Hurricane Sandy relief bake sale the school will hold on Wednesday.

Irene Condomanolis, 38, brought her son Peter back to P.S. 139 at 93-06 63rd Drive in Rego Park this morning. She was relieved to have Peter back in school learning instead of fooling around at home.

"He spent the week playing video games and more video games," Condomanolis said.

In Williamsburg, parents at P.S. 132 at 320 Manhattan Ave. were also excited to finally bring their kids back to school, as students excitedly greeted each other.

But some parents were also afraid that their children would fall behind after the week off.

"She needs her education, it's very important," said Brenda Murray, whose daughter, Madison, is 6 years old. "There's a lot of work in first grade. A lot of reading and arithmetic. They were just learning to subtract."

Several teachers and staff members who live in the Rockaways also lost their homes and cars, parent coordinator Yvonne Garguilo said, including the assistant principal and music teacher.

"Parents have been emailing and calling asking how to help. One of them even offered to lend cars," Garguilo said. "For us to have everybody back to normalcy will probably help."