Many LI schools could reopen this week
At least 20 public school districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties that were closed last week after superstorm Sandy plan to start classes Monday or by midweek, according to educators and a Newsday survey of districts' websites.
Many school leaders cautioned that they won't make final decisions on reopening until later Sunday, depending on whether local roads are clear enough to run buses, electricity is restored to facilities, and teachers and staff have fuel to get to their schools.
Many more districts could reopen this week, regional leaders said. But they added that storm-battered schools along the coastlines clearly need more time for repairs, and that other cases are iffy.
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School officials said they faced difficulty in communicating with parents or updating their websites because of pervasive power outages.
Thirteen other districts, all in the Island's eastern sector, brought students back last week.
Jim Polansky, the Huntington schools superintendent, said parents should receive an update about his district's situation by phone Sunday.
Polansky, in a recorded call to parents Friday, said the district hopes to restart classes Monday for its 4,400 students. Huntington also plans to attempt to hold classes during Tuesday's elections -- a day traditionally set aside as a "superintendent's conference day," reserved for teacher training.
Polansky, in his message, said two of Huntington's eight schools remained without power, and busing some students might prove a problem.
"Unfortunately, there are numerous roads throughout the district that remain impassable," Polansky said.
Charles Leunig, chief of Copiague schools, said on Friday that he also hopes to reach a decision on reopening by this afternoon.
A major potential obstacle, he said, is shortage of fuel -- both for buses and for teachers and staff trying to get to work in their own vehicles. In a detailed memo to school board members, Leunig described street conditions that continued to be a worry.
"Cleanup is proceeding," the superintendent wrote. "Gas lines are clogging up traffic wherever a gas station is open. Streets below Montauk Highway could still be a problem for full-size buses next week. Dawn-to-dusk curfews are in place in certain areas below Montauk Highway to discourage looting, which has already occurred in some cases."
Last week, most schools stayed shut five full days -- a loss of class time that veteran educators called unprecedented for the Island. State law requires a minimum 180-day school calendar, and many administrators hope to make up for the loss by holding classes on Election Day.
Jericho, for example, has hired 10 extra security guards to guarantee the separation of students and adult voters on Tuesday. Henry Grishman, the superintendent, noted that any needed teacher training could be postponed -- if necessary, until after students complete Regents exams in June.
"We saw the priority as being student contact days," Grishman said.
A few districts in eastern Long Island have been open since Wednesday. The 750-student East Moriches district restarted classes on Thursday, and officials Friday said attendance was approaching normal levels.
Superintendent Charles Russo said an abnormally high 11 percent absentee rate on the first day of classes could have stemmed, in part, from families' lack of access to working phones and laptop computers.
"Some folks, I think, were just not aware we were open," Russo said.
Back to school
Long Island public school districts that indicated on their websites Friday that they plan to resume classes tomorrow are:
Fire Island students will attend class Monday on the mainland, in a leased Eastern Suffolk BOCES building, officials said.
More districts expect to announce Sunday afternoon whether they will open Monday or by midweek.
Classes resumed last week in 13 districts:
Because of power outages, some districts' website could not be accessed or had not been updated to reflect districts' status.