in the cold

Families mostly sanguine about heading to schools without heat

A sign on the door of the Spruce Street School today alerted families to cold conditions inside.

For dozens of schools, the first day back after Hurricane Sandy is turning out to be a chilly one.

The Department of Education estimated that three dozen schools would have electricity but no heat today, and during a news conference on Sunday, Mayor Bloomberg encouraged families to dress their children for the chilly weather.

“Some of the buildings may not have heat, some of the school buildings, and they’ve been without heat for a while, so please dress your children with that in mind,” he said. “If the schools were dangerously cold we obviously wouldn’t open them, but if they’re chilly, extra sweaters for the kids is something that should make some sense.”

Almost all of the schools the department warned would be without heat are in Manhattan, where power was restored over the weekend.

Sixth-grader Jaeda Barreto donned a pink, fur-lined coat this morning that she planned to wear even after completing her commute from Harlem to the School for Global Leaders on the Lower East Side. Her mother, Stephanie Brooks, said one of Barreto’s teachers had called on Sunday to say that the school might be without heat today, so the family made sure to dress extra warmly. (Global Leaders is not on the department’s list of schools likely to be without power.)

After a week cooped up at home, which Barreto passed by reading “The Hunger Games,” even the prospect a chilly school was welcome, Brooks said.

Other people who planned to spend the day inside a cold school building offered similarly sanguine takes on the problem, which is relatively minor compared to some facing schools damaged by Sandy. At Murry Bergtraum High School near City Hall, a teacher reported that building was “cold in parts” but “mostly bearable.”

After serving a donated breakfast this morning at P.S. 188, which does have heat, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she was not sure whether the city should be opening schools that do not have heat. She pointed out that at least some students who attend those schools have no heat at home, either, so keeping the schools closed would not benefit them.

But she said UFT President Michael Mulgrew had told her he was seriously concerned about the city’s decision.

And union officials said this afternoon that reports from members were rolling in about schools without heat. Most were in Manhattan, but teachers reported that P.S. 107 and P.S. 69 in the Bronx also lacked heat this morning, and electricity, too. Both schools are near the water in the Soundview section of the Bronx.

One school that still did not have heat by midday, according to the union, was P.S. 234 in Manhattan. Parents rushing to get their children to the school this morning said their principal, Lisa Ripperger, warned them over email to bring extra sweaters and layered clothing to school today.

Jaeda Barreto and mother Stephanie Brooks bundled up for their commute from Harlem to Barreto's school on the Lower East Side. Barreto said she would keep her coat on all day because she was told the building might not have heat.
Pam Kirkbride, whose daughters attend fourth grade and kindergarten at the Tribeca school, said she was not worried about the cold distracting her children or making them uncomfortable.

“Lisa really handled it well,” she said. “She has communicated just enough information at the right times [since the hurricane]. Never once did I have to ask about anything.”

And, Kirkbride added, hopefully, “the school is quite warm inside.”

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.