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Hurricane Sandy — Pitching in, reaching out
Resupplying relocated students with 30,000 backpacks
by Cara Metz | November 22, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Calling it the “best of New York City coming together at a time when we all need the best to come together,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the efforts of educators, administrators, elected officials and corporate citizens who all pulled together with the goal of raising $1.5 million to donate and deliver 30,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to students whose schools — and, for some, homes as well — were flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
Speaking at IS 281 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on Nov. 13, Mulgrew lauded the school for welcoming displaced students from PS 188 in nearby Coney Island into the building and for doing whatever was necessary to make the space-sharing work. “You are all a credit to the education profession and I can’t thank you enough,” he said.
Local elected officials there to support the affected schools and who contributed funding for the backpacks and school supplies, as well as for rebuilding the destroyed gymnasium at PS 188, were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., whose district is home to both schools.
Noemi Medina, the chapter leader of PS 188, said that the younger students were still in shock when they arrived. Some came in crying, she said, “but once they see the familiar faces of their teachers and classmates, they get happier.”
Some 280 students from PS 188 attended school that day, the first for which shuttle buses were available for them.
The space is tight for both schools, with PS 188 students sharing classrooms by grade. That has led to some classes having more than 50 students, PS 188 dance teacher Lori Edelstein said, “but children are doing their best and are learning.”
The intermediate school students are also making do with shared spaces. “This school is being so cooperative, making us feel at home here,” Edelstein said.
“Opening our doors was the easy part,” said IS 281 Principal Maria Bender. “Making sure they have all they need is more difficult.”
When more chairs and tables were needed for the students, she added, the UFT was there the next day with those items.
“Kids feel more comfortable with the security of their book bags,” Bender said. “It helps them focus on what they’re here for — education.”
Vowing that Coney Island would soon come back “to what it was or even better,” and that students would soon be back in their own school, PS 188 Principal Frederick Tudda urged parents to have hope and thanked his “remarkable staff for being so dynamic and making this work.”
This story was first published on UFT.org on Nov. 13 at 6:24 p.m.