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Reopened Brooklyn Schools Help Those Destroyed After Hurricane Sandy

By Meredith Hoffman | November 6, 2012 8:58am

WILLIAMSBURG — As P.S. 84 returned from a week without classes Monday, the Grand Street school's principal Sereida Rodriguez-Guerra combed through a list of socks, baby food, warm coats and school supplies that a Rockaway Beach school needs while recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

Her elementary school had "adopted" P.S. 317Q, a three-year-old school on Beach 110th Street that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and remains closed, Rodriguez-Guerra said, noting that the principal there, Dana Gerendasi, had been her colleague at another Brooklyn school.

"We just got off the phone, and she was telling me everything they need," she said of Gerendasi, who previously worked at P.S. 250 on Montrose Avenue with Rodriguez-Guerra. "We're already getting bags from parents dropping off donations in the front."

Rodriguez-Guerra said she had been impressed but "not surprised" by her school parents' eagerness to aid another location, and other principals in the neighborhood echoed that sense of solidarity as classes resumed Monday.

"Everybody has been very supportive," said Principal Karen Ford of her Maujer Street elementary school P.S. 18, where she noted all teachers showed up Monday, despite cumbersome treks from Long Island and New Jersey. "All my teachers are here. That shows dedication."

Ford said her staff was searching for the right place to send donations and that they were thinking of "adopting" a damaged city school, as well.

At the Manhattan Avenue school P.S. 132, where several staff members had cars that were destroyed and homes flooded on Rockaway Beach, parent coordinator Yvonne Garguilo noted that parents had already ventured out to help other, including a music teacher.

"The band parents went to help him in the Rockaways," Garguilo said of the efforts to aid the music teacher, even though she said getting to Rockaway Beach had been difficult because of the scarcity of gas. "Parents have been emailing and calling asking how they can help...some of them even offered to lend their cars."

Roriguez-Guerra said that she had already been discussing "adopting a school in another country...or somewhere else" in recent weeks, because of her "amazing parents" and their generosity.

"Then this happened, and this school is right here," she said of P.S. 317Q, noting that the parents' Facebook page would include details about what donations were needed. She said that two of her own students and one teacher had also been displaced from the storm, and that the school was working to help those families, as well.

But even as the school communities emphasized helping people facing physical damage, staff and parents admitted they were nervous about the academic setbacks from missing a week of classes.

"Time is the most precious resource you have, and I already worry about not having enough hours in the day," Ford said. "It set us back in pacing...but our school is in good shape."

And Brenda Murray, who carts her daughter Madison, 6, to P.S. 132 all the way from Maspeth, Queens, because "the school is excellent," said she hoped her child's class would quickly catch up on the missed work.

"They do a lot of reading and arithmetic," Murray said. "Her education is very important...I don't want her to get left behind."