A growing number of Long Island school districts announced Wednesday that they would stay closed through Friday in the wake of superstorm Sandy -- a loss of five consecutive class days that regional officials called unprecedented.
State school authorities predicted that some Island districts could further extend shutdowns after they assess storm damage to buildings. Kings Park reported that a roof blew off Park View Elementary School, but that it hoped to relocate students, provided power was restored.
Other districts besides Kings Park that confirmed they will remain shut the rest of the week included Sachem, Huntington, Jericho, Commack, Lindenhurst, Northport-East Northport, Babylon, North Babylon, West Babylon and Deer Park. Reporting by Newsday and News 12 Long Island found that at least 102 of the Island's 124 districts will remain closed Thursday.
"We're working hard to open Monday, but I don't know that we're going to make it," said Tom Rogers, superintendent of Nassau's Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which provides regional services including career training and special education.
Jericho, Wantagh and Kings Park all said they planned to hold classes on Election Day to make up academic time. Regional school leaders said they had already begun exploring with Albany the possibility of obtaining state waivers that would relieve districts from providing the minimum 180 days of class required by state law.
Last year, state lawmakers granted a special five-day waiver to many schools in the Catskills and other upstate regions flooded by Tropical Storm Irene. That was in addition to a five-day waiver that can be granted by state education commissioners.
Ken Slentz, the state's deputy commissioner for elementary and secondary education, noted Wednesday that districts generally are required to exhaust scheduled vacation days before they are excused from classtime requirements. Slentz acknowledged, however, schools on the Island and other areas such as Rockland County faced serious obstacles in their efforts to avoid closing for more than five days.
"For some of those districts, it's going to be longer, because we don't have good assessment of damage to schools," Slentz said in a phone interview.
Greenport schools reopened Wednesday on the Island's North Fork, where storm winds were slightly less severe than farther west. Southold schools also reopened, then announced they would shut down a second time today due to a power failure.
At least seven other eastern Long Island districts plan reopenings Thursday: Bridgehampton, Riverhead, Center Moriches, East Moriches, East Quogue, Remsenburg-Speonk and Shelter Island.
With Bill Mason,
and Lauren R. Harrison