Long Beach officials eye school reopening

A Long Beach resident looks at the damage A Long Beach resident looks at the damage on his neighborhood on the West End of Long Beach. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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The Long Beach school superintendent pledged resumption of full-day instruction next Tuesday -- just past the two-week mark since superstorm Sandy struck the South Shore city.

"We will open as soon as we can, but I'm not going to open if travel conditions are not safe," Superintendent David Weiss said Tuesday, referring to possible street flooding from the nor'easter forecast to hit Long Island Wednesday.

The 4,000-student district had lots of company when it came to uncertainty about resuming classes: Nearly 60 school districts had said Monday that they expected to reopen Wednesday or were considering doing so. Almost all of them were sticking to that plan Tuesday night, despite the predicted storm.

Several that had planned to open Wednesday -- including Cold Spring Harbor, Harborfields and South Huntington -- decided to remain closed because of the coming storm.

Nassau BOCES Superintendent Tom Rogers announced that his agency's centers would reopen Wednesday to students. He cautioned, however, that BOCES schools might have to close again Thursday, depending on effects of the nor'easter.

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"Obviously, the wind is what everyone is worried about," Rogers said.

The closings caused by Sandy, with most of the Island's 124 districts shut down for at least the full week after the storm struck on Oct. 29, were unprecedented for a weather event.

In Long Beach Tuesday, Weiss presided over a three-hour meeting of about 300 teachers and staff at the Lindell School. Before a standing-room-only crowd in the elementary school's basement cafeteria, Weiss spoke of the importance of "getting the kids back in class, back to a routine."

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All the district's schools suffered some damage, Weiss said. Long Beach High School, East School and Lindell will accommodate students while other facilities are being repaired.

Weiss said he did not have an estimate of the damage.

Logistics of transportation for students and staff remain an issue; Weiss said details were being worked out. The district's school buses were not damaged.

Streets in the city of 33,275 must remain clear for emergency vehicles. For Tuesday's meeting, for instance, staff members were bused to the school from Long Island Rail Road stations outside of Long Beach.

Communications are another hurdle.

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Cellphone service in Long Beach continues to be spotty, and few have access to the Internet because most of the city remains without electricity.

Sixty-five percent of the district's teachers and staff, approximately 850 people, live in Long Beach.

District officials spent Monday and Tuesday trying to locate parents, some of whom evacuated. Parents should call 516-897-2000 or fill out a contact form at lbeach.org/.

"We had cellphone numbers for some parents but not all of them," Weiss said. "We need to know where people are living because we will be transporting kids from outside the district who were evacuated."

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