Schools Closed Until Monday; Staff Returns Friday

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New York City students likely will return to school on Monday, making it at least a full week off of school because of damage and clean-up efforts from the "superstorm" known as Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a Wednesday news briefing that school faculty and staff are being asked to report to work on Friday. He acknowledged that the school closures are difficult for families but he said there were dozens of schools damaged in the storm as well as complicated transit and power problems to resolve.

"I know this is a great inconvenience to parents who may be missing work because they don't have anybody to take care of their kids. But the bottom line is there's an awful lot of schools that have received damage or won’t have power and it's just so many that in the end we need the next four or five days to clean up," he said. "Hopefully by Monday everything will be back."

Dolores Troy-Quinn, principal of P.S. 186 Castlewood in Bellerose, Queens, said even though some students may be enjoying the time at home, it’s not good “educationally-speaking.”

“You get in a groove, you get in a hum,” she said, “and then all of a sudden you’re off. And then you have to get back on track.”

Quinn added that time away from school can be particularly difficult for special education students. Nearly 30 percent of her student population are children with special needs.

A parent commented on SchoolBook’s Facebook page to the same point. She said “lack of structure is horrendous” for students with disabilities.

“My son, who has autism, just doesn't understand what's going on,” she said. “Thank goodness we didn't lose power or internet & cable -- otherwise i'd be done for!"

Ronda Matthews, a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 321 in Park Slope said she is ready to get back to the classroom, because she was in the middle of an elections-related lesson with her students.

“I really want to teach, because by the time we get back to work the election will almost be over,” she said.

Her husband, Scott Matthews, teaches math at Brooklyn Technical High School and shared the same eagerness to get back to school.

“We have a curriculum that is jam-packed full of stuff and it doesn’t help when we miss all these days, he said.

Scott was planning on giving an exam this week, but said he will likely give students a day to review when they return to school.

But while schools are closed, Scott and Ronda said they have been enjoying the family time with their own children, and have been “doing school at home,” said Ronda, including reading and doing puzzles.

Elizabeth Ellis, a parent of a second-grader and fourth-grader in Greenwood Heights, said she “personally does not have qualms” about her children being out of the classroom in this situation, because they have been active thinkers at home. She said her children and their neighbors have used their time at home to create an imaginary world.

“It’s a club that they created for themselves with a whole language and a whole alphabet,” she said.

For her part, Quinn, the Queens principal, said she has been spending these past few days keeping in touch with teachers and parents, catching up on email and reading.

“I’m trying to stay on top of things and stay in education mode,” she said.

She and a science teacher at the school also went to P.S. 186 yesterday to feed and check on the school’s hamsters and lizards. And when students return to school -- hopefully Monday, according to the mayor -- she knows there will be some review for students on routines and behavior, in addition to academic content.

“We’ll talk about the storm,” she said. “I’m sure the kids will have a lot to say. And then we’ll get back to the business of education.”