Walcott Addresses Sandy’s Effect On Education
“This was a highly, highly difficult period in New York City (and) we’ve been working extremely hard,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at the November 8 meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy held at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria.
Citywide attendance was 82.6 percent on November 8 but in 56 relocated schools citywide it was just 30 percent. In District 27, the schools that were open had attendance rates below 30 percent and some reported attendance rates below 20 percent.
The Rockaway peninsula does not have subway service and the Department of Education has been unable to find enough buses to transport students. A total of 460 students have left District 27 to enroll in other public school districts in the city, according to gothamschools.org. Many were students from Belle Harbor and Breezy Point attending M.S./P.S. 114. More than 100 homes burned down in Breezy Point during Hurricane Sandy.
“We are working diligently on attendance at relocated schools,” said Walcott.
In addition, Walcott said 7,500 buses were on the road as of November 8 out of a fleet of 8,000.
“We continue to add to the bus fleet,” he said. “We will continue to work hard to get all of our schools back online and our students back in school (and) thank all of our staff who have been working so hard doing something that’s never been done before.”
Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said efforts were still underway to secure additional busing to relocated schools and families were being offered MetroCards as an option. In addition, Grimm said that lunch was free for all students during the month of November. The Division of Pupil Transportation, located on Vernon Boulevard has been closed, hampering operations.
“We’re not all the way there yet, there’s a long way to go,” said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg.
Kevin Diamond, the Brooklyn Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) representative, introduced a resolution to suspend public hearings concerning proposed DOE school co-locations or reorganizations until next year. Hearings must be held before PEP votes and the November 8 vote was rescheduled to December 20 because of the storm.
Diamond maintained it was unfair to hold public hearings on use for school buildings when so many communities are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction but the resolution was defeated.