Debris and packed sand fills a street near the the beach in Belle Harbor a week after the storm hit. Three weeks after the storm, concerns are setting in about how poor air quality could affect students.
Parents at schools just beginning to recover from Hurricane Sandy are concerned that worsening air quality on the Rockaway peninsula could pose a health concern for students who return.
At a meeting Monday night for families in District 27, which includes many hard-hit neighborhoods, a parent leader said children at her newly reopened school arrived with masks to protect them from pollution caused by the storm.
The parent leader, Alexandra Siler, said she sent her daughter to P.S. 317 with a protective mask on Monday, the school's first day back after two weeks in a temporary location, even before two students there experienced respiratory distress after coming in from recess.
One P.S. 317 student was hospitalized Monday, a Department of Education spokeswoman said. Siler said the school also called an ambulance for a second child but that a parent arrived to pick the student up first.
The hospitalized child, who Siler said was in pre-kindergarten, is feeling better and is now in stable condition, according to the department spokeswoman.
Propelled by $200 million in emergency funding, the department has reopened 20 severely damaged schools on the Rockaway peninsula in the past week. The rapid restoration has meant that thousands of students no longer have to travel long distances to get to cramped temporary sites that sometimes lacked even basic classroom resources.
But it also means that students are returning to school buildings that are surrounded by blocks of waste and sandy debris.