The basement at P.S. 15 in Red Hook was flooded with between five and seven feet of water during Hurricane Sandy, staff said.
Teachers across the city and region are turning to DonorsChoose, a website that allows educators to solicit funds for small-scale projects, to get their classrooms righted after Hurricane Sandy.
The site set up a dedicated page featuring only projects from schools affected by the powerful storm and so far, according to DonorsChoose's current statistics, individual donors have given more than $50,000 to projects that will reach more than 19,000 students.
The quick pace of donations means that many projects are completed very soon after they are posted, giving schools an immediate boost at a time when goodwill is running high but coordination to deliver donated supplies to where they are most needed is only now being established.
In one remarkable example, a science teacher at Brooklyn International High School raised $1,080 from a single donor after explaining how his students' science materials were destroyed when the school building lost power. "Unfortunately, our school cannot afford to replace the several thousands of dollars in chemicals and restriction enzymes we lost due to Sandy," he wrote.
Other city teachers have gotten money to buy toys for students at P.S. 15 in Red Hook, which was flooded and has been relocated; give supplies to colleagues at a newly co-located school; replace graphing calculators for students at Staten Island's New Dorp High School.
Some projects to help city schools still need funding.
Teachers from the Red Hook Neighborhood School meet in the school's library during an Election Day professional development session.
Principal Rochel Brown hadn't slept much since Friday, when she and her teachers began assessing the toll Hurricane Sandy took on the Red Hook Neighborhood School's community.
The news she received then was grim: Several teachers lost their homes and cars in the storm, which was particularly devastating to Staten Island and Brooklyn's waterfront neighborhoods, where many teachers from her school live. And many more families were unreachable because of power outages in the area.
To top it off, she and Shahara Jackson, principal of the Summit Academy Charter School, which shares the Huntington Avenue school building with the Neighborhood School, learned they would need to make room for another school—P.S. 15, a Red Hook school so damaged by the storm that it cannot reopen yet—by Wednesday, when its students and teachers will be temporarily relocated.
Brown told reporters this afternoon that she is managing "as smoothly as possible," given the circumstances. The other principals nodded in agreement.
Julie Cavanagh and her husband prepare to pass out supplies to Red Hook residents affected by the storm.
City teachers were told to stay home from school this week until today because of damages and disruption wrought by Hurricane Sandy. But staff working in one of the city's worst-hit areas showed up anyway.
A group of teachers and aides from P.S. 15 in Red Hook met on Wednesday, just a day after the storm ended, hoping to distribute supplies to residents from the nearby Red Hook Houses, a sprawling campus of public housing where many of the school's students live.
"P.S. 15 has always kind of been a hub for the community and in the absence of that hub, we wanted to try and do something," said Julie Cavanagh, a special education teacher who invited families via email to meet at the school on Wednesday afternoon.
Cavanagh bought $200 worth of supplies — water, food, batteries, and even som Halloween candy — at Costco that morning, and said her plan was to give it away at the school, which was also badly damaged from the storm that flooded the rest of the neighborhood on Monday night.
But few people showed up at the scheduled meeting time on Wednesday. Some families had likely evacuated, and Cavanagh said she knew of some co-workers and families who stayed put but weren't able to receive calls or emails.
The head of a national advocacy group for improving school facilities is warning that a Brooklyn school building cannot support a charter school expansion plan that the citywide school board approved last night.
Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century Schools Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that helps both district and charter schools plan their building space, composed a report on how space is used at Brooklyn's P.S. 15. The elementary school shares space with PAVE Academy Charter School, which will expand in the building while it awaits construction of its own private building. Filardo's report, prepared at the request of New York's Campaign for Fiscal Equity, was submitted as testimony against the city's plan at last night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting.
"My overall impression is that even following the most optimal collaborative planning process and support from [the Department of Education], it will not be possible for PS 15 to support the continued expansion of PAVE per the DOE proposal," Filardo writes.
At the most, Filardo estimates that P.S. 15 could give up one full classroom and one half-sized classroom without harm. But the city's plan requires much more: it will allocate an additional five full-size classrooms and three resource rooms to PAVE over the next three years.