Sandy Shakes Ups Enrollment and Attendance

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A week and a half after Sandy struck the New York region, the nation's largest school system is struggling to get thousands of children whose schools were damaged back in the classroom. All schools opened Thursday, in their own buildings or someone else's, but the latest Department of Education figures show that attendance numbers are still low and many students are switching schools or perhaps moving out of the city altogether.

The attendance for relocated students was down to about 30 percent Thursday. The department partly attributed the low number to the snow storm. Citywide attendance was 82.7 percent. Teacher attendance was 93 percent.

The three school districts that have seen the most change in their enrollment numbers cover the areas where the storm caused the most damage: Coney Island and Brighton Beach (District 21), the Rockaways (District 27) and Staten Island (District 31).

According to a D.O.E. update sent to reporters late Thursday, District 27 saw 460 students leave as a result of Sandy to date. A majority of those students has enrolled in District 22 schools.

Ninety three students moved out of the District 21 schools in Queens but many of them have remained in the district, enrolling in surrounding schools. And Staten Island's District 31 has seen movement of 55 students but they also mostly stayed in district.

Some parents in hard-hit areas said the D.O.E.'s plan to have students report to their old schools for busing to relocated schools makes little sense. Maud Smith is the co-president of the PTA at the Belle Harbor School in the Rockaways. She said no one from the school is still living in the area and most have already enrolled their children in other schools.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent a message to principals over the weekend with an update to enrollment procedures for displaced students. Students who have been displaced from their permanent residence because of Hurricane Sandy can attend school near their temporary residence, according to the following guidelines:

Students who have been displaced from their permanent residence because of Hurricane Sandy can attend school near their temporary residence.

· Elementary and middle school students should enroll at the zoned school for their new temporary residence. If there is no zoned school for their address, they should visit an enrollment office.

· All displaced high school students should visit an enrollment office if they would like to enroll at a high school that is closer to their new residence.

If students are enrolling at your school because they have been displaced from their permanent residence due to the hurricane, please use the new Admit Reason Code, SA – HURRICANE SANDY, when you are registering the students in ATS. Displaced students do not need to provide any documents in order to enroll.

The D.O.E. said it expected many of the relocated schools to return to their sites "within the coming weeks.

"We are working on more than a dozen buildings that are getting close to being ready as we speak and as they come on line we'll inform families. We believe that it is important for students to attend their relocated schools to minimize educational disruption and to ensure transportation eligibility to and from the new locations."

Finally, five more relocated schools are getting busing starting Friday morning. They are: 27Q105, 27Q362, 27Q215, 27Q104, 27Q197.

This post includes reporting from the Associated Press.