No school again Friday for many LI districts
At least 110 of Long Island's 124 school districts will remain closed Friday -- five days after superstorm Sandy hit the area -- according to regional school leaders and district websites.
In western Suffolk County, Michael Mensch, the regional BOCES superintendent, told Newsday Thursday that all 18 districts in the area will be shut another day at least. Mensch's educational agency serves the towns of Babylon, Huntington and Smithtown, where about 90,000 students in all attend public schools.
The great majority of districts in eastern Suffolk and Nassau County also expect to be shut Friday, as local officials continue assessing damage to schools. Schools in Kings Park and Montauk have both lost roofs, and other significant destruction has been reported in several districts along Nassau's southern shore.
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As of Friday, all but a handful of Island districts will have lost five consecutive days of classes -- a situation that veteran educators call unprecedented.
"I don't remember anything like this," said Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, who has 34 years experience as a school administrator.
At least 11 districts have reopened in the Island's eastern portion, where storm winds were slightly less severe than farther west. Nine restarted classes Wednesday or Thursday; Mattituck-Cutchogue and Fishers Island were due to reopen Friday.
Mensch said lack of electricity remains the biggest barrier to schools reopening. Even with power, he added, districts may face obstacles in busing students through many residential communities.
"The main roads are in good shape, but once you get into the neighborhoods, you've still got trees down," Mensch said.
Other areas of New York State have experienced lengthy school closures in the recent past. Some schools in the Catskills and other upstate areas shut down for two or three weeks last year, because of flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
For those schools, state lawmakers approved special legislation, granting an extra five-day waiver from the usual requirement of a minimum 180-day class calendar. State education commissioners are empowered to waive five days as well.
With Lauren R. Harrison