After flubbing flood response, NYC education officials send guidance for a drizzle

A man in a suit and red tie stands at a wood podium surrounded by onlookers.
New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks, center, joins Mayor Eric Adams on Sept. 12, 2022, for a career readiness announcement. The chancellor and mayor have both faced criticism for their handling of last week’s flooding. (Ed Reed / Mayoral Photography Office)

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After New York City’s Education Department flubbed its response to last week’s historic flooding, the agency appears to be on a course correction — and possibly overcompensating for its recent errors. 

In advance of about a quarter-inch to an inch of rain expected Friday, officials sent two emails to principals with detailed guidance on how to respond. 

“Our expectation is that this rain will not substantially disrupt the regular school day,” a Thursday night email stated, “but we want to be prepared for any potential impact in our most flood prone schools and on afterschool or weekend programming across the city.”

They sent no such information to principals last week before six inches of rain inundated some parts of the city.  

Officials sent a second email Friday afternoon with a “brief weather update” for the weekend, and letting principals know they had discretion on how to handle school-based activities since there would be no system-wide decision.

Schools Chancellor David Banks this week admitted there was communication breakdown in how the city handled its response as floodwaters rose. He promised an investigation into what went wrong. 

Banks and Mayor Eric Adams mentioned during a storm-related press conference that schools should shelter in place. But that message was never directly communicated to schools, several principals told Chalkbeat.  

Banks promised earlier this week: “We can do better, and I think we will certainly be working to do better next time.” 

Mayor Eric Adams also posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the city was preparing for heavy rains Friday night and into Saturday. 

Some principals thought the email sent to school leaders on Thursday night was overkill, much like when a new mayor, after bungling his first blizzard, reacts to a forecast of snow flurries by salting the roads in advance. 

Below is the Thursday night letter that went out to principals.

Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Michael at melsen-rooney@chalkbeat.org.

Amy Zimmer is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat New York. Contact Amy at azimmer@chalkbeat.org.

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