October 29, 2012
New York City schools will be closed for a second day Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, the powerful storm that is set to wreak its worst effects on the city tonight.
Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement this morning in his first storm briefing of the day, 24 hours after calling off today’s classes. The two-day closure is the longest the school system has undergone in years; schools were closed one day in 2010 and one day in 2011 because of snow.
In addition to canceling Sunday’s administration of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the Department of Education has also canceled public meetings about changes to schools that had been set for today.
But administrative offices are officially remaining open, as part of Bloomberg’s efforts to make sure that the city delivers essential services during the storm. He said today that he had advised the heads of city agencies to use their own discretion when asking employees to report to work.
A Department of Education employee who reported for work at one of the department’s Brooklyn offices said the building was “like a ghost town” this morning.
The UFT said the requirement for some Department of Education personnel to report for duty came “over our strong objections,” according to the union’s website.
“The DOE says that there will be no penalties for transit-related lateness, but if non-school-based personnel cannot come to work, they will have to use annual leave, personal leave/CAR time or compensatory time to stay home,” the site read. “We will be looking at all avenues to try to correct this terrible, unsafe policy.”
Some department employees have volunteered to work for the city during the days off of school. Teachers are among the city employees staffing 76 evacuation centers housed in public schools.
“Thank you to those who are reporting to shelter sites and to those who are volunteering to assist during this time,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement today. Walcott has appeared with Bloomberg at three consecutive storm briefings, twice from the Office of Emergency Management’s Brooklyn headquarters and once from Manhattan’s Seward Park High School, an evacuation center.
Teachers also volunteered to work at evacuation centers during Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the city during a late-August weekend. At the time, Sherry Lewkowicz, a Bronx high school teacher, recounted her two days as an evacuation-center volunteer in the GothamSchools Community section. She described a sense of purpose and civic duty among the volunteers — but also some disorganization and, among the teachers present, envy for the ample quantity of school supplies.
GothamSchools will return to a regular posting schedule when schools reopen. Until then, please stay safe!