Educators Re-Group at Schools Across City

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Teachers and principals returned to work Friday, some in their own buildings but thousands of others borrowing space because their own school buildings were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

There was some confusion last night as school staff waited for word from the Department of Education as to where they should go. The list did not come out until close to midnight, along with word that staff did not have to report to work until 10:00 a.m.

A comment from the United Federation of Teachers, posted on its Facebook page, summed up the frustration: "The last communication we received from the DOE was that the list would not be ready until 9 p.m. It's now past 10 p.m. and no list has materialized. It's ridiculous."

But now that schools gradually are opening again ahead of the students' return on Monday, teachers are focused on practical concerns.

Josh Boccheciamp, who teaches 11th and 12th grade English at Validus Preparatory Academy in the South Bronx, said teachers started their day with an open forum, where they could talk about their own experience with the storm. Then teachers each called a group of students to check in.

"The kids are safe" after the storm, said Boccheciamp, but "we're in one of the poorer areas of the city and I know that a lot of the kids are hungry. You know, the school meals they get, for some kids, are the only meals that they'll get during the day."

Out on Staten Island, teachers at I.S. 24 Myra S. Barnes gathered in the cafeteria to organize a clothing drive for students affected by the storm, according to teachers' union officials. They also said I.S. 24 was open to staff today, even though the school still did not have any power or heat.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said several Staten Island teachers asked him: "Can you get a trailer here with washing machines in it, like they did for Katrina? Because so many of the kids are telling us 'we just need a place to wash our clothes and we can come to school.'”

Mulgrew also visited New Dorp High School, which accommodated teachers from 11 other schools Friday, according to the Education Department's relocation plan . He said teachers spent their first day gathering storm relief information.

“The teachers there from the different schools were actually organizing informational leaflets to bring out into the communities,” with information on where to get water or how to get in touch with FEMA, he said.

A Bronx UFT member, Christine Rowland, posted on the UFT page a few ideas for school personnel: set up a carpool list and engage the school social workers and support staff into faculty conversations about how to help students cope with the aftermath of the storm.

1:35 p.m. |Update

Jonathan Levin, principal of the M.S. 260 Clinton School for Writers & Artists, met with his staffers at a school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

He said the first priority is getting his students back to a routine, but he also knows it's been a trying time.

"Kids are going to have an opportunity to share in a small group kind of what their experience was and teachers will put together some questions as a class, they're going to have an opportunity to talk a little about what happened and reassure the kids and then share ideas for helping out people in need," he said.

Levin acknowledged transportation is still a big worry because his 250 middle schoolers come from all over the city.

Kate Burch, principal of Harvest Collegiate High School on West 14th Street, had the same concern.

"Most of them are from uptown Manhattan and the Bronx -- they can get in -- but a huge number are from Queens and Brooklyn and that will be a real challenge if mass transit's not back," she said.

One of the Harvest Collegiate teachers made a map showing where all their students live so they'd know in advance who may have trouble getting around on Monday.