November 5, 2012
For dozens of schools, the first day back after Hurricane Sandy is turning out to be a chilly one.
The Department of Education estimated that three dozen schools would have electricity but no heat today, and during a news conference on Sunday, Mayor Bloomberg encouraged families to dress their children for the chilly weather.
“Some of the buildings may not have heat, some of the school buildings, and they’ve been without heat for a while, so please dress your children with that in mind,” he said. “If the schools were dangerously cold we obviously wouldn’t open them, but if they’re chilly, extra sweaters for the kids is something that should make some sense.”
Almost all of the schools the department warned would be without heat are in Manhattan, where power was restored over the weekend.
Sixth-grader Jaeda Barreto donned a pink, fur-lined coat this morning that she planned to wear even after completing her commute from Harlem to the School for Global Leaders on the Lower East Side. Her mother, Stephanie Brooks, said one of Barreto’s teachers had called on Sunday to say that the school might be without heat today, so the family made sure to dress extra warmly. (Global Leaders is not on the department’s list of schools likely to be without power.)
After a week cooped up at home, which Barreto passed by reading “The Hunger Games,” even the prospect a chilly school was welcome, Brooks said.
Other people who planned to spend the day inside a cold school building offered similarly sanguine takes on the problem, which is relatively minor compared to some facing schools damaged by Sandy. At Murry Bergtraum High School near City Hall, a teacher reported that building was “cold in parts” but “mostly bearable.”
After serving a donated breakfast this morning at P.S. 188, which does have heat, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she was not sure whether the city should be opening schools that do not have heat. She pointed out that at least some students who attend those schools have no heat at home, either, so keeping the schools closed would not benefit them.
But she said UFT President Michael Mulgrew had told her he was seriously concerned about the city’s decision.
And union officials said this afternoon that reports from members were rolling in about schools without heat. Most were in Manhattan, but teachers reported that P.S. 107 and P.S. 69 in the Bronx also lacked heat this morning, and electricity, too. Both schools are near the water in the Soundview section of the Bronx.
One school that still did not have heat by midday, according to the union, was P.S. 234 in Manhattan. Parents rushing to get their children to the school this morning said their principal, Lisa Ripperger, warned them over email to bring extra sweaters and layered clothing to school today.Pam Kirkbride, whose daughters attend fourth grade and kindergarten at the Tribeca school, said she was not worried about the cold distracting her children or making them uncomfortable.
“Lisa really handled it well,” she said. “She has communicated just enough information at the right times [since the hurricane]. Never once did I have to ask about anything.”
And, Kirkbride added, hopefully, “the school is quite warm inside.”