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Students, Parents Greet Reopening of JFK High with Excitement and Nerves

By Eddie Small | September 9, 2015 1:23pm
 Students returned to JFK High School as scheduled on Sept. 9, despite the explosion that occurred at the building less than three weeks ago.
First day at JFK High
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MARBLE HILL — Students and parents arriving at the blast-scarred John F. Kennedy High for the first day of school were happy to be back, but a little nervous.

Less than three weeks ago, the building that houses seven schools was damaged in a gas explosion that sent three workers to the hospital and destroyed portions of the fourth, fifth and sixth floors.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had initially said the school would not open by the start of the city's academic year, but Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz later told DNAinfo that students would be able to return on time, with the Department of Education noting that the building is structurally sound.

"We're so comfortable here," said 17-year-old Zoe Henry, who attends New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities. "We didn't want to start all over again."

Shameek Goodman, a 15-year-old freshman at New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities, said he was happy that the building at 99 Terrace View Ave. reopened in time for the first day, as he preferred the familiarity of the place over having to get used to something new.

"I wouldn't know that school," he said. "I've already been in this school and explored my floors."

His classmate Shae Bernard, 17, was similarly pleased that she would get to spend her last year at New Visions in a place she was used to.

"It would suck to spend our senior year in a different building," she said.

However, Crystal Hawkins, whose son Jarred Smith attends 10th grade at Bronx Theatre High School, said she was unnerved by the building reopening and very dissatisfied with the poor communication surrounding the response to the explosion.

She was reluctant to send Smith inside the building today as she said she got a call from the city on Tuesday saying she would not be able to do a walkthrough of the building herself until Thursday.

"In other words, I should send my child in this school today and anything can happen," she said, "but that’s great because I get a chance to do a walkthrough tomorrow. What is really going on?"

She was also incredulous about the cause of the explosion, which officials believe was sparked by a worker who lit a match to see if gas was coming out of a fuel line.

"Who in their right mind as a contractor would light a match to check any gas?" she asked. "That’s a commonsense issue."

Her fellow Bronx Theatre parent Sory Ferreras was less concerned, saying that she wanted to walk her son to class today to make sure everything was alright at the school but was not too worried about its overall condition.

de Blasio took a tour of the building on Wednesday to survey the construction site and speak with the principals of all seven schools.

Construction on the worst hit area of the school will likely not be finished until next September, but workers will try to get additional classrooms ready to open earlier, according to DOE Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose.

Beyonce Dennis, a 14-year-old freshman at Bronx Theatre, said she was very excited about the upcoming school year and looked forward to learning more about writing scripts and making costumes.

However, she acknowledged that the recent explosion had made her slightly nervous as well.

"If it happens again, we can get really hurt," she said, "but I'm trying not to focus on that right now."

Kara Sperling, principal of the Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy, said that the schools have had to share space and make sure every room is in use so that they can all fit in the building, but she maintained that the first day went very well overall.

“Today was absolutely smooth," she said. "Every child programmed, every child in a classroom, everybody ready to go.”