NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. /New York Netwire/ — NY Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today reopened 12 schools in the Rockaways and Brooklyn that were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy and have been closed since the storm hit last month. More than 5,400 students, their teachers and staff returned today, following extensive repairs to boiler systems, flooded basements and other structural damage.
Overall, the City has returned more than 26,000 students from 47 schools to their regular buildings, which were closed for maintenance, had lost power or were used as emergency evacuation sites. Of the 12 schools reopening today, four welcomed students ahead of schedule – the result of nonstop repair work from the Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities and the School Construction Authority. Last week, the Mayor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Comptroller John Liu announced an emergency plan for $500 million in capital spending to repair public schools and hospitals impacted by Hurricane Sandy, as a part of the City’s commitment to expedite the restoration of critical services. To date, 7,800 students from 18 schools remain at their reassigned sites due to ongoing repair work. The Mayor and Chancellor made the announcement at P.S. 43 in Far Rockaway, where they were joined by Principal Gary Fairweather, President of the School Construction Authority Lorraine Grillo, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Council Member Eric Ulrich.
“We know that at a time of disruption and dislocation for so many New Yorkers, our public schools can be a much-needed anchor for families,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s why we’ve been working so hard to get our schools open again. We still have more work to do, and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our school engineers, custodians and facilities staff, we will continue to return our students to their classrooms as quickly as possible.”
“Our most important task was getting students back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said Chancellor Walcott. “Teachers, principals, custodians and facilities personnel have been working around the clock to get the vast majority of students back to their schools, and today we can welcome back 5,400 students to their original buildings. We will continue to make repairs as quickly as possible in order to get the remaining 18 schools reopened.”
“I applaud Mayor Bloomberg and City officials for working diligently to make the necessary repairs to schools that sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” said Senator Malcolm A. Smith said. “It is imperative that students return back to their classrooms and recommence a sense of normalcy.”
“Today’s announcement by Mayor Bloomberg is another step forward on the road to recovery from Hurricane Sandy,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “It will restore something of a routine, a coming home and a very practical improvement for thousands of families.”
“Like many homeowners and small businesses, the school facilities in my district were severely affected by the storm,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “I commend the School Construction Authority for rehabilitating these buildings ahead of schedule. I also want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott for restoring some peace of mind to our children at a time when they need it most. We are making progress every day and will not rest until life gets back to normal for our kids.”
P.S. 43 was not expected to open until November 30, due to flooding, loss of power and heat and other storm damage. Facilities staff pumped water from the basement, installed a generator and temporary boilers and repaired the roof so that students could return one week in advance.
Following the storm, 43 schools were unable to open because of extensive structural damage and students were reassigned to temporary class locations while buildings underwent restoration. The Department of Education has successfully reopened 25 of those schools in their original buildings – including the 12 reopened today.
The storm also impacted another 22, as their school buildings either lost power or were used as emergency evacuation sites. Since November 5, power has been restored to all schools that lost it, and the shelters were consolidated so that these students could return to class.