Sandy aftermath: Students, schools struggle for 'normalcy'

School buses line up in this file photo.

School buses line up in this file photo. (Credit: News12)

Hudson Valley school officials are anxiously hoping for phone calls from utility companies and police: the power is back on, the roads are passable.

It's a waiting game for many schools in Rockland, Westchester and southern Orange counties that are likely to remain closed until Monday. A handful of schools in Westchester and many in Orange and Dutchess opened Thursday, but for the rest, school has been out since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast on Monday.

While some local school buildings did experience structural damage, most were shuttered by lack of electricity and road debris that prevented buses from shuttling children.


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The region's largest school district, Yonkers Public Schools, will remain closed Friday. Six schools are still without power while two only have lights in portions of the buildings. All Rockland County schools are also closed until Monday.

"Many of our streets are still compromised and impassable," North Rockland Superintendent Ileana Eckert said Thursday. "Yesterday we still had half of our district without power."

The district's building crews have been working to salvage food, shuttling it to buildings that have power, and the bus crew has been driving its routes to figure out alternate ways to get students back to their desks.

While Tarrytown schools reopened on Thursday, they did so even though Winfield L. Morse School in Sleepy Hollow was still dark. The elementary school-age kids and their teachers found temporary shelter, like many families have had to do at home, at Washington Irving School.

Sleepy Hollow High School Principal Carol Conklin said teachers surmounted obstacles, such as power outages at home and road closures, to get classes running again.

"It's very important for all of us to get back to a sense of normalcy," Conklin said. "This has been a very frightening thing. The more we're back studying and worrying about weekend football -- the better it is for everybody."

Sleepy Hollow High School sophomore Danny Elia, of Tarrytown, was a bit jealous of other students who have the week off, but he admitted it felt nice to walk into school Thursday. "I felt warmth and heating, instead of having like four jackets on under the covers trying to, like, ignore the coldness in the house," Elia said.

White Plains Public Schools superintendent Christopher Clouet said it's important to reopen schools that provide a haven for those who don't have power at home.

"In some cases the schools will be a safe and warmer environment," Clouet said.

White Plains and Pleasantville schools will be open Friday with a two-hour delay, allowing more time for travel and for families who don't have power to get ready for school in daylight.

In Ossining, high school science teacher Angelo Piccirillo said his students are frantically emailing him with questions about how they can work on a big project due in two weeks. The district is closed through Friday, but he's hopeful classes will resume Monday for his students' sake.

"They're going a little nuts," Piccirillo said.

The Dobbs Ferry School District may open only its middle and high school Monday, if power remains out at Springhurst Elementary School.

At South Orangetown schools, officials are also considering "getting creative" with facilities if power outages continue, Superintendent Ken Mitchell said in a statement. There are also food stores to replenish and bus fuel to locate.

"That said, our goal is to open by Monday, but a lot of work has to be done to make this happen," Mitchell said.

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