Back to school means back to normal, after Sandy
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As some schools on Long Island opened their doors Monday for the first time since Sandy struck, administrators in the hardest-hit areas say they must do more than simply make sure their buildings are safe: They want to help make children "feel whole again."
In Lindenhurst, Superintendent Richard Nathan said more than 100 of his students have become homeless, their houses leveled or uninhabitable.
Asked how his district will address the crisis, Nathan said, "Try to restore some sense of normalcy, to provide a safe haven for the children, a place they can stay where they can get a decent lunch, where the classrooms are heated and there is sympathetic staff to help make them feel whole again."
Lindenhurst, which serves 6,420 students, is one of 32 districts expected to open Wednesday. SCOPE programs, which serve 7,000 students across the Island, will be available in districts that hold class, officials said.
Even as the district is trying to identify its homeless and find out if they'll continue at the same school -- homeless students have the right to remain at their school of origin -- it's dealing with buildings that still lack power.
Harding Avenue Elementary School has no electricity, so grades three, four and five will attend the middle school, while kindergarten through second grade will be routed to William Rall Elementary.
The Long Beach district, which serves nearly 4,000 children, will open only one school Wednesday, weather permitting, superintendent David Weiss said. Lindell School will open for elementary students in the morning and secondary students in the afternoon.
Weiss stressed that children cannot be driven to school. "We can't have cars in Long Beach" because of the storm's destruction, he said.
Even in Sandy's aftermath -- communication with staff and parents has been difficult because of sporadic cellphone service and some district employees experienced tremendous losses -- the district is making progress, Weiss said.
"We are on our way back," he said. "We are working round the clock. It is going to come in steps, not all at once."
Gary D. Bixhorn, Eastern Suffolk BOCES chief operating officer, said schools are working hard to provide a safe environment for students. "We are all breaking new ground," he said.
On the Syosset district's website, a statement said that the South Woods Middle School will remain closed and that its students will be transported to H.B. Thompson Middle School. Walt Whitman Elementary will also remain shuttered, with students transported to Baylis Elementary in Plainview.
One parent, Stacey Broggy, 41, said she is concerned about that plan. She said she will not send her 12-year-old son to a combined school because of worries about overcrowding.
"They are in a rush to open these schools but people are still without heat and power; you're rushing kids to go to school with 50-degree temperatures in their home," she said.
"We have no gas in our cars to go and buy groceries. Half my friends relocated to other family members that live out of the area."
Here are public school districts' status as of Monday night, compiled from information on district websites and calls to district officials or their public relations firms.
Expected to reopen Wednesday
Long Beach (limited basis)
Valley Stream Central
Cold Spring Harbor
Half Hollow Hills
West Islip (elementary schools closed, high school and middle schools open)
Closed today; status Wednesday to be determined
Oyster Bay-East Norwich
Closed after tomorrow
East Rockaway (closed all week)
Oceanside (closed through tomorrow; Thursday unknown)
Websites not operational or no mention of school closings (Officials could not be reached)