Back to school

Ten schools to return home on Tuesday as recovery proceeds

After another day with abysmal attendance figures at dozens of schools relocated because of Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Education has its sights set on next week.

“I think Tuesday [will be] the best barometer of how well we’re doing,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Thursday night as he fielded questions about the department’s steady but logistically complicated progress in getting students in storm-battered areas back in school.

More than 40 schools will still be housed in temporary relocations when classes resume after the Veteran’s Day holiday — the seventh day the city’s schools will have been closed since Sandy struck Oct. 28. But for the first time, the department will be able to provide bus service to elementary and middle school students in all of them, and new generators mean that some schools will reopen in their own buildings.

The seven schools that received generators are all on the Rockaway Peninsula, which is served by a power company that has drawn fire for not restoring power quickly enough. Another Rockaways school that is reopening did have its power restored this week, but the Long Island Power Authority now says some customers on the peninsula will not see their power come back on until after Thanksgiving, or more than two weeks from now.

Attendance in relocated schools has been very low — 36.9 percent today, up from 30 percent on Thursday — and schools on the Rockaway peninsula have had the fewest students show up, with attendance remaining around 4 percent at some schools today.

One reason is that families in the area’s hard-hit neighborhoods have scattered, but another issue has been transportation: With the subway down and many school buses out of commission, the department has had to ask some families to use scarce gas or take a car service and be reimbursed later. Starting on Tuesday, the city will have enough shuttles to bring children at all relocated elementary and middle schools from their closed school buildings to their new sites.

Among the school buildings reopening on Tuesday are the four high schools on the Far Rockaway campus and Bard High School Early College, a highly selective Manhattan school that suffered severe flooding. Another displaced school, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School returned to its home on Governor’s Island today.

As additional repairs are made over the three-day weekend, it is possible that other school buildings will become operational before Tuesday, department officials said.

The city is also still shuffling at least some schools to new spaces: P.S. 333, a Rockaways school, will divide into two separate buildings starting on Tuesday. Neither is the Long Island City building where the school operated this week, drawing just 1.1 percent of its enrollment today.

“This week we had a couple of students but we told parents that we’re starting up on Tuesday,” an employee of the school said this afternoon.

Overall today, citywide attendance was 89.1 percent, the highest since the storm, and 95 percent of teachers reported for work as well.

The citywide attendance rate seems to be inching back up to where it was before the storm. But Walcott said he would not be content to wait for attendance to rise as storm-battered communities to stabilize over time.

“My goal is to make sure we improve attendance and we’re talking constantly about ways to improve it,” he said. “I’m definitely conscious that we have an enrollment and attendance issue we need to address.”

The schools that are reopening in their regular locations on Tuesday are

Bard High School Early College, Manhattan
P.S. 253, Brooklyn
P.S. 105, Queens
P.S. 215, Queens
Wave Preparatory Elementary School, Queens
P.S. 197, Queens
Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School, Queens
knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI High School, Queens
Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology
Academy of Medical Technology: A College Board School, Queens

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.