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Lawrence schools to get $2.6M for Sandy-related repairs

Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst is shown on

Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst is shown on January 16, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The Lawrence school district is getting more than $2.6 million in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs to the high school in Cedarhurst, where extensive electrical damage and other problems discovered after superstorm Sandy forced a weekslong closure.

The federal funds, totaling $2,622,957.71, will cover 90 percent of the cost of building repairs, and the remaining 10 percent will be provided by the state, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said last week.

Lawrence Superintendent Gary Schall said the district spent more than $5 million on Sandy-related repairs. He said he anticipates spending at least $5 million more to correct some long-term damage.

"It feels like there is a weight lifted off of our shoulders, but there is further mitigation that we are going to be putting in requests for," Schall said.

The schools chief said he expects the district will receive more funding from FEMA to cover the full cost of the completed repairs.

Lawrence High School was shut down for weeks in January 2013, with hundreds of students temporarily shifted to other schools, after electrical damage from Sandy's flooding was discovered.

Engineering consultants found that wiring had been corroded by seawater that flooded a crawl space under the high school when the storm struck on Oct. 29, 2012. The corrosion was discovered after the crawl space was cleared of sand and debris.

Extensive repairs had to be made to the building's electrical systems, heating systems and boilers, and crawl space, Schall said. The school also had to replace all the seats in its auditorium.

The school reopened in mid-April 2013, but teachers expressed concerns about mold and other building conditions stemming the flooding, and at least three were sickened, union officials said.

Schall said the district spent $75,000 on air quality tests and "that at all times when tests were given, air levels were acceptable."

Last week, Lawrence Teachers' Association president Lori Skonberg said "the health issue has been resolved." An environmental agency was brought in to examine the building, she said, "and everything that needed to be corrected was corrected."

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