weather report

Schools called off for second day as Hurricane Sandy intensifies

Mayor Bloomberg briefed the press on the city's response to Hurricane Sandy Sunday at Seward Park High School. The school is a hurricane evacuation center. Photo: Bowery Boogie

New York City schools will be closed for a second day Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, the powerful storm that is set to wreak its worst effects on the city tonight.

Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement this morning in his first storm briefing of the day, 24 hours after calling off today’s classes. The two-day closure is the longest the school system has undergone in years; schools were closed one day in 2010 and one day in 2011 because of snow.

In addition to canceling Sunday’s administration of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the Department of Education has also canceled public meetings about changes to schools that had been set for today.

But administrative offices are officially remaining open, as part of Bloomberg’s efforts to make sure that the city delivers essential services during the storm. He said today that he had advised the heads of city agencies to use their own discretion when asking employees to report to work.

A Department of Education employee who reported for work at one of the department’s Brooklyn offices said the building was “like a ghost town” this morning.

The UFT said the requirement for some Department of Education personnel to report for duty came “over our strong objections,” according to the union’s website.

“The DOE says that there will be no penalties for transit-related lateness, but if non-school-based personnel cannot come to work, they will have to use annual leave, personal leave/CAR time or compensatory time to stay home,” the site read. “We will be looking at all avenues to try to correct this terrible, unsafe policy.”

Some department employees have volunteered to work for the city during the days off of school. Teachers are among the city employees staffing 76 evacuation centers housed in public schools.

“Thank you to those who are reporting to shelter sites and to those who are volunteering to assist during this time,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement today. Walcott has appeared with Bloomberg at three consecutive storm briefings, twice from the Office of Emergency Management’s Brooklyn headquarters and once from Manhattan’s Seward Park High School, an evacuation center.

Teachers also volunteered to work at evacuation centers during Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the city during a late-August weekend. At the time, Sherry Lewkowicz, a Bronx high school teacher, recounted her two days as an evacuation-center volunteer in the GothamSchools Community section. She described a sense of purpose and civic duty among the volunteers — but also some disorganization and, among the teachers present, envy for the ample quantity of school supplies.

GothamSchools will return to a regular posting schedule when schools reopen. Until then, please stay safe!

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.