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Despite the enormous challenges still facing New Yorkers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, most teachers and students, many of them storm victims themselves, headed back to school on Monday, Nov. 5 — as the New York Teacher went to press — bundled up against the cold in those buildings still without heat.
Some 100,000 students did not report to 57 schools that have severe flooding or structural damage, 29 still lacking power and eight serving as shelters for evacuees from the most devastated areas of the city. The DOE expected the students from those schools still affected by the storm back in their own schools or relocated to other sites by that Wednesday.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew estimates that 40 to 45 of the structurally damaged buildings, most of them in the hardest-hit areas of Coney Island, the Rockaways and Midland Beach in Staten Island, may not be ready to reoccupy for months.
“We will continue to work with the Department of Education to meet the challenges with which we will be confronted tomorrow and beyond as the city and our communities continue the long process of recovery,” he said.
In the face of massive transportation problems, power outages, gasoline shortages and the challenge of relocating 38,000 students and staff within days, the city is working to create new bus routes and move equipment and books as it negotiates space-sharing arrangements for its displaced population.
Frustration was high for teachers returning to work on Friday to prepare for the reopening of schools, especially those facing daunting transportation problems, because they did not get notice of a 10 a.m. report time or relocation sites for those whose building were not habitable until after midnight on Thursday, long after many had gone to bed.
Mulgrew had urged members who could safely get to work on Friday to do so. If, for one of an array of legitimate reasons, staffers were unable to report to work due to the effects of the storm, the DOE set up an appeals process where staff can appeal the loss of a leave day for an absence. The appeals form can be downloaded from the DOE website.
Mulgrew also turned out to offer support to members without direct deposit who were standing in a line that stretched around the block at 65 Court St. in Brooklyn, some for up to four hours, waiting to collect their checks. Paychecks were available at schools on Tuesday.
In the face of the daunting challenges ahead, Mulgrew called on members “to stay focused on what matters most: seeing that our students are safe and that their needs are met.”