Back to school

Ten schools to return home on Tuesday as recovery proceeds

After another day with abysmal attendance figures at dozens of schools relocated because of Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Education has its sights set on next week.

“I think Tuesday [will be] the best barometer of how well we’re doing,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Thursday night as he fielded questions about the department’s steady but logistically complicated progress in getting students in storm-battered areas back in school.

More than 40 schools will still be housed in temporary relocations when classes resume after the Veteran’s Day holiday — the seventh day the city’s schools will have been closed since Sandy struck Oct. 28. But for the first time, the department will be able to provide bus service to elementary and middle school students in all of them, and new generators mean that some schools will reopen in their own buildings.

The seven schools that received generators are all on the Rockaway Peninsula, which is served by a power company that has drawn fire for not restoring power quickly enough. Another Rockaways school that is reopening did have its power restored this week, but the Long Island Power Authority now says some customers on the peninsula will not see their power come back on until after Thanksgiving, or more than two weeks from now.

Attendance in relocated schools has been very low — 36.9 percent today, up from 30 percent on Thursday — and schools on the Rockaway peninsula have had the fewest students show up, with attendance remaining around 4 percent at some schools today.

One reason is that families in the area’s hard-hit neighborhoods have scattered, but another issue has been transportation: With the subway down and many school buses out of commission, the department has had to ask some families to use scarce gas or take a car service and be reimbursed later. Starting on Tuesday, the city will have enough shuttles to bring children at all relocated elementary and middle schools from their closed school buildings to their new sites.

Among the school buildings reopening on Tuesday are the four high schools on the Far Rockaway campus and Bard High School Early College, a highly selective Manhattan school that suffered severe flooding. Another displaced school, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School returned to its home on Governor’s Island today.

As additional repairs are made over the three-day weekend, it is possible that other school buildings will become operational before Tuesday, department officials said.

The city is also still shuffling at least some schools to new spaces: P.S. 333, a Rockaways school, will divide into two separate buildings starting on Tuesday. Neither is the Long Island City building where the school operated this week, drawing just 1.1 percent of its enrollment today.

“This week we had a couple of students but we told parents that we’re starting up on Tuesday,” an employee of the school said this afternoon.

Overall today, citywide attendance was 89.1 percent, the highest since the storm, and 95 percent of teachers reported for work as well.

The citywide attendance rate seems to be inching back up to where it was before the storm. But Walcott said he would not be content to wait for attendance to rise as storm-battered communities to stabilize over time.

“My goal is to make sure we improve attendance and we’re talking constantly about ways to improve it,” he said. “I’m definitely conscious that we have an enrollment and attendance issue we need to address.”

The schools that are reopening in their regular locations on Tuesday are

Bard High School Early College, Manhattan
P.S. 253, Brooklyn
P.S. 105, Queens
P.S. 215, Queens
Wave Preparatory Elementary School, Queens
P.S. 197, Queens
Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School, Queens
knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI High School, Queens
Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology
Academy of Medical Technology: A College Board School, Queens

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.