Some New York City Students Head Back To School

Schools in New York City opened for the first time since superstorm Sandy hit the city last Monday. Some buildings had to be cleaned up before students arrived and a few had no heat. Still more than 90 schools remained closed due to storm damage or because they are still being used as evacuation shelters.

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Most of New York City's more than 1,700 public schools reopened today for the first time since Sandy hit. More than 90 schools in the city remained closed, some because of damage, some because they have no heat. And 16 more that are being used to shelter people made homeless by the storm.

NPR's Margot Adler tells us more.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: New York City has a huge school system with more than a million students. New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said robocalls went out to tell parents if their child's school would be functioning. School buses were rolling again and there were phone numbers and websites to get updated information. At PS41 in Greenwich Village, I saw Vinny Sahi coming out the door of the school with a smile on his face. His son went to PS41 until the family moved to Fire Island four years ago. Then Sandy devastated Fire Island. His son Alden is 9.

VINNY SAHI: He was distraught. We were throwing his toys into the back of my truck as the water's lapping up against the side of the house. It was like, OK, we're homeless so let's move in with my mom and hope that they let us in and they just did.

ADLER: They being the school, which threw bureaucracy to the wind and made room for his son. This is the story we're hearing all around. A family evacuating Far Rockaway and being enrolled in a school in Coney Island. The parent coordinator for PS41 is Michele Farinet. She says everyone worked all week reaching out to parents.

MICHELE FARINET: Thanks to technology, we managed to find ways, even if we had to go outside the area, to communicate so we were putting a lot of plans in place last week.

ADLER: Bruce Resnick came to the school with his two children, eight-year-old Aidan and 11-year-old Sidney. For both kids, school seemed a better deal than the last week.

AIDAN: Well, it wasn't fun because we didn't have electricity and we had to keep getting ice.

SIDNEY: Like, what's the point of no school if you don't have television?

ADLER: Further downtown near the East River, a building that says PS188 actually houses three schools and 800 students. Bill Tatton, the operating engineer, said he taped all the doors before the storm.

BILL TATTON: We had four feet of water in this location that just came right up the street and started pushing cars around. And I sought higher ground, let's put it that way.

ADLER: They were OK. But a block and a half closer to the East River, Bard High School Early College is closed. You can see water damage in the cafeteria, trash and fall leaves on the floor. Tables are stacked on the sidewalk and workers have been instructed to talk to no one.

TATTON: I can't say anything.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: OK, all right. Well, I looked down there it was pretty bad.

The 600 students are not in school today There is another Bard High School in Queens. They're going to be joined in classes as one school on Wednesday. Many say that's the day New York City will experience confusion, as students from more than 50 schools relocate. But today, according to the mayor, 86 percent of New York City students were in school.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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