Rockaway School Earns Praise for Sandy Response

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A principal’s heartfelt account of his Rockaway school’s response to Sandy prompted an outpouring of praise, especially from inside the school community.

Brian O’Connell -- principal of The Scholars’ Academy, a 6-12 school in Rockaway Park – wrote for Schoolbook last week about the relocation of his 1,200 students to two school buildings outside the neighborhood, the warm welcome they received at the hosting schools and the commitment of the teachers and students to continue learning under very difficult conditions.

Comments from readers ranged from amazement over his story to offers to help to thank yous from current students and their parents.

“My daughter attends Scholars' and is very happy to know that you have provided a safe place for her to continue her education after Hurricane Sandy destroyed everything,” wrote Jean Atkinson. “At present we are living with my sister in Brooklyn as we lost our home. We are willing to travel any distance to attend school as you have proven to be the best principal anyone could want for a school.”

Another parent, Letizia Abbate Draghi, said she was apprehensive at first about having her daughter travel to the relocated school. “But my daughter was determined to get back to her teachers and her friends,” she wrote. “When she got off the bus that first day back, and I saw her smile, I knew that whatever began in Rockaway carried into your new temporary home on Pennsylvania Avenue. Once a Scholar, always a Scholar.”

Current student Jenna Simon wrote that the hurricane showed that her school could continue to exist even without its four walls. “Scholars is not just a building we go to learn. It is a group of people who truly care for each other. I am proud to call myself a SCHOLAR.”

Read O’Connell’s account here and add your own comments.