Mayor reopens more storm-scarred schools

Photo courtesy Michael Bloomberg
By Steve Mosco

The road to recovery following Hurricane Sandy now includes a few more school bus stops.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially reopened 12 city schools — including five in Queens — ahead of schedule Monday, returning 5,400 students from temporary class sites.

One of those schools, PS 43, at 160 Beach 29th St. in Far Rockaway, welcomed the mayor, along with city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Borough President Helen Marshal, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) as the students returned to a sense of normalcy.

“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,” the mayor said at PS 43, also known as the “School by the Sea.” “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.”

The mayor said the Far Rockaway school suffered from severe flooding, destroyed boilers and a damaged roof. During the repairs, PS 43 students attended classes at John Adams High School in South Ozone Park.

PS 43 had not been expected to open until Nov. 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 students could return one week in advance.

“Like many homeowners and small businesses, the school facilities in my district were severely affected by the storm,” said Ulrich, whose district includes Far Rockaway. “I commend the [city] 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.”

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. To date 7,800 students from 18 schools throughout the city remain at their reassigned sites due to ongoing repair work.

Walcott said custodial crews worked late into the night in order to make sure the schools were ready for students to return.

“Our most important task was getting students back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said 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.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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