New York

Students in Rockaway schools go elsewhere, or nowhere at all

Just blocks away from P.S./M.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, a hard-hit neighborhood on the Rockaway peninsula, homes were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of students, mostly middle class, have fled their Far Rockaway schools to enroll somewhere else since Hurricane Sandy knocked the peninsula out of commission. But attendance data suggests that many other Far Rockaway students are simply not attending school in the first days that the city has provided schools for them. Attendance dropped slightly citywide today, from 87 percent on Wednesday to 82.6 percent, a decline that officials attributed to the snowstorm. "Attendance from both teachers and students, given the storm, was actually reasonably good," Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference. The attendance rate fell more dramatically for students in 56 schools relocated because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Just 30 percent of students in those schools were in class today, while students in relocated schools had a 43 percent attendance rate on Wednesday, their first day back after the storm. Driving the decline was the addition of 13 new relocations that started today, all for Queens schools without power. Most of the schools without power are on the Rockaway peninsula, which still does not have subway service, and the Department of Education has been unable to muster enough buses to transport all students from the peninsula, instead offering to reimburse families who make their own way to school. Some of the schools where relocations began today posted attendance rates below 1 percent. Overall, in District 27 today, which contains several neighborhoods in addition to those on the Rockaway peninsula, 26 schools posted attendance rates below 20 percent.
New York

Few hard details about 24 schools as city prepares legal action

Mayor Bloomberg speaks at a press conference this afternoon in Union Square. The city canceled meetings with the teachers and principals unions today as its lawyers prepare to seek a restraining order against a ruling that reverses thousands of hiring decisions at 24 struggling schools. Both the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators planned to meet with city officials this afternoon to figure out what would come next for the schools, which had been slated to undergo an overhaul process called "turnaround." The process involved radically shaking up the schools' staffs, which total more than 3,500 people. But the arbitrator's ruling undid all of the changes. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the meeting was already on his agenda by Friday afternoon, just hours after the arbitrator ruled that the city's staffing plans for the schools violated its contracts with the unions. A main agenda item would have been figuring out a mechanism for staff members who were not rehired at the schools to reclaim their positions. Another issue, Mulgrew said on Friday, was whether the city and unions might instead try to hash out a teacher evaluation agreement for the 24 schools so they could undergo less aggressive overhaul processes and still qualify for federal funding. But this morning, the city told the unions that the meetings were off. Mayor Bloomberg explained this afternoon that he thinks the city should not have to abide by the arbitrator's ruling until the arbitrator explains his reasoning.