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