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Officials stand in shut schoolhouse doors to usher families away

District 15 Superintendent Anita Skop spent four hours this morning huddled in her car outside of P.S. 15 in Red Hook.

Her mission: to send away any families who brought their children to the school.

P.S. 15 is one of 57 schools so damaged by Hurricane Sandy that they cannot reopen this week in their own buildings. It is set to reopen on Wednesday at the P.S. 27 building, half a mile away.

In addition to the schools that will open in other buildings on Wednesday, 16 schools remained closed today because their buildings are still being used as shelters and 29 were shut because they still did not have power. For all 102 schools, the city has gone to extensive lengths to inform students and families to stay away today.

Over the weekend, the Department of Education made 1.1 million automatic phone calls to families at the schools, and full-page ads about the temporary closures and relocations appeared in several local newspapers today.

“We have robo-calls, our [parent] coordinators are making calls, and we’ll get the message to as many people as we can,” Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference on Sunday.

But Bloomberg said he recognized even that might not be enough during a time when many families lack electricity, internet, and cell phone service.

“I’m sure we’re going to miss some people, and that’s just the reality of trying to do something that we have to do quickly,” he said.

So for those who might not have gotten the message, the city deployed district superintendents and other central administration officials to shuttered schools Monday morning.

Skop said being at P.S. 15 “just in case” a family showed up expecting to drop their children off would provide a personal touch for families who were likely to have been most affected by the storm.

“Here is a human body to say, let me tell you what the process is,” Skop said.

But about halfway into her shift, Skop said that so far the city’s pre-emptive warnings seemed to have worked.

“I’ve been here since 6:30 and no parents have come by yet,” said Skop, who said she planned to stay for another few hours to make sure no families arrived late.

P.S. 15 teachers today are reporting to the P.S. 27 school building a half mile away that also houses P.S. 676 and Summit Academy Charter School. Students are scheduled to report to that site starting on Wednesday.

Inside of P.S. 15, contractors and Division of School Facilities employees continued to work on the school, which was still without electricity and heat. A large fuel tank installed on the sidewalk was keeping the school warm to make sure that the pipes didn’t freeze as the temperatures dropped, a person working at the school said.

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