Yasmeen Khan is an associate producer covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
11:07 a.m. | Updated As the city recovers from Sandy, the details of re-opening the massive public school system keep changing. For the latest information, check the Department of Education website.
Education officials said Sunday evening that 102 schools would not open to students on Monday, including 57 schools in severely-damaged schools buildings, 29 due to power outages and 16 schools in large high school campuses that are being used as emergency shelters for storm evacuees.
Below are the mayor's comments from Sunday.
“As we announced earlier, public school classes will resume tomorrow. Some people have asked why we are sending kids back to school since Tuesday is a holiday.
“Let me remind everybody, our kids have already missed a week of school and we don’t want them to miss another day. And throughout the last week, parents have had to rearrange their schedules to take care of their kids – and that can be a real hardship for a lot of people who want to get a day at work and can’t do both.
“Every day we’re working to help more people get their lives back to normal, and opening schools will be an important part of that process for both students and parents. Our kids need to get back to class after a week without school, and this way we’ll be able to use Election Day to adjust the bus routes and staffing and supplies, and all of the things that are going to require a little bit of experience.
“We just can’t predict who’s going to show up where and that sort of thing, and we’re obviously going to have problems. Some of the buses were damaged in the storm, some of the bus drivers are new and don’t know the routes. We’ll just have to bear it, but we’ll have a day between the first day and the second day of school – namely Tuesday – and we’re going to use that day to straighten things out to the best of our ability.
“We think something like 90 percent of the schools will be open tomorrow. There are 65 schools that we know won’t be open. They include eight schools with emergency shelters, as well as 57 schools that sustained serious damage during the storm.
“On Wednesday – when classes resume after Tuesday’s Election Day – the students in those 57 schools will attend class in alternative sites. So if you’re going to one of those schools, you’re not going to have classes on Monday, you start on Wednesday. How do you find out? You go to 311 or nyc.gov, and we are also proactively trying to reach out to you.
“We have robo-calls, our coordinators are making calls, and we’ll get the message to as many people as we can. And I’m sure we’re going to miss some people, and that’s just the reality of trying to do something that we have to do quickly. Some people don’t update their phone numbers when they move or change phones, and so sometimes you can’t get to everybody you want.
“Finally, there are now fewer than 75 schools, I’m happy to say, without power; that’s down from 178 yesterday, and we expect this number to keep falling. Any without power Monday morning won’t be open, and that information, once again, will be available on 311 and nyc.gov. So we’re trying to reach out to everybody. We’re not going to get to everybody, we know that. I urge parents to, if you live in a place where there might have been damage to the school, if it’s near the water, you have a reasonable expectation that there’s going to be a problem, pick up the phone proactively, call 311.
“Some of the buildings may not have heat, some of the school buildings, and they’ve been without heat for a while, so please dress your children with that in mind. If the schools were dangerously cold we obviously wouldn’t open them, but if they’re chilly, extra sweaters for the kids is something that should make some sense.
“Parents and students can get status updates about the schools by going to the Department of Ed’s web page at nyc.gov as I said. You can type in the name of the school your child attends and find out whether it will be open, or whether it is in an alternative location, on Monday. You can also call 311 or text the words ‘NYCSchools’ – that’s one word – to 877-877. People can also receive texts in Spanish by texting ‘escuela’ to the same number, 877-877.
“One-point-one million robo-calls have already been made to parents; principals and parent coordinators are continuing to reach out directly to their parent communities. We’re going to run full-page ads in several of Monday’s daily papers with school closure information. And I also urge parents to follow the news on radio, television, and other sources.
“It is complex and people are going to make mistakes, and people are going to get misinformed. We know that, but it’s better to have another day of school, get most kids to school, find out where we need more resources, and then we’ll have Tuesday to try to adjust.
“We do expect about 96 percent of the schools buses to be running Monday morning – although please bear in mind that, because of downed trees or other storm debris on the streets, there may be some delays in picking student pick-ups, or I’m sure there’s going to be cases where just the driver made a mistake on the route and we didn’t get to everybody. We’re trying to do our best, and I want to support them and give them all the tools that we possibly can, knowing that it’s not going to be perfect.
“The City’s Department of Education, you should know, is also calling up a reserve of substitute teachers to make sure that all classrooms are covered.
“The schools where we’re moving classes, sometimes they’re moved from one borough to another, sometimes we’re putting elementary schools in high schools – the bottom line is we have to go where there are empty seats. And as you know, we keep building classrooms, adding seats, and it’s never enough, and so we don’t have a very large group of empty seats, but we think we do by moving things around in these schools we’re able to accommodate everyone."
7:34 p.m. | Updated While the vast majority of New York City students will return to school Monday morning, 65 schools in buildings either damaged by the storm or still housing emergency shelters will not be open to students.
Many of those closed schools likely will return on Wednesday. Public schools are closed on Tuesday for Election Day.
At his Saturday afternoon briefing on the aftermath of Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the school numbers are continuously changing as power is restored to parts of the city and damage is repaired.
"There are about 178 schools still without power. We hope that many of them will have power and be open for classes by Monday, so I can’t give you a number, but we think it will be significantly less than that." he said.
He said the city is reaching out to families through robo-calls, full-page ads in the daily papers, and through school staff but he asked families to contact city officials if they are not sure about their school situation.
"It is difficult to find out if it’s your school for your kid. We’re doing everything we can to reach out to you, but it would be helpful if you sort of reached in to us, particularly if you are in an area and your child goes to a school where you know it’s near the coastline and there’s a possibility that there was damage done during the hurricane," the mayor said.
The new plan to open some schools on Wednesday affects students attending schools that sustained very severe damages, flooded basements and first floors, badly-damaged roofs and electrical fires.
The announcement that the eight schools with emergency shelters would also be closed on Monday was a reversal. Just the day before, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said those schools would be able to accomplish both goals of serving students and shelter residents.
For the latest information, please refer to the Department of Education's website.
As for bus transportation, education officials said they were working on reconfiguring bus routes. The mayor said on Saturday that he expected 96 percent of the school buses to be running Monday although there could be storm-related delays.