School Climate & Safety

Hurricane Sandy Shutters Thousands of Schools

By Lesli A. Maxwell — October 29, 2012 2 min read
One World Trade Center and large portions of lower Manhattan and Hoboken, N.J., are seen without power from Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday, the morning after a powerful storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast. New York City awakened Tuesday to a flooded subway system, shuttered financial markets and hundreds of thousands of people without power.
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As Hurricane Sandy began unleashing its fury on the East Coast Monday, the storm shuttered thousands of schools across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, with millions of students to be out of school for at least two days, state education officials said.

In New York City, a spokeswoman said the 1 million-student system would remain shut down at least through Wednesday, due to expected severe weather conditions caused by the hurricane. Schools in Boston, the District of Columbia, Philadelphia, and Providence, R.I., were shut down Monday.

With widespread power outages and damage expected across much of the East Coast between North Carolina and Maine, some officials said that disruptions to schools could stretch through much of the week and even into next week.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said 2.4 million households were without power on Tuesday morning, and that flooding and damage were widespread, especially in the state’s coastal communities.

Of the state’s nearly 600 school districts, 467 reported being closed Monday and 574 reported that they would be shut down Tuesday, said state education department spokeswoman Barbara Morgan, who noted that more districts may be closed than what has been reported to the state.

State education officials said they would be gathering information throughout Tuesday about damages to schools. And at least one county office of emergency management had already ordered that schools remain closed on Wednesday, said Ms. Morgan.

“All decisions regarding whether schools will be open are made at the local level,” Ms. Morgan said in an email. “Department staff continue to provide updates to our districts on the current weather conditions.”

Roslyn Pitt evacuated her home in Glen Cove, N.Y., with her 10 children, seeking shelter Monday from Hurricane Sandy at an American Red Cross Shelter at Locust Valley High School on Long Island. With Ms. Pitt are children Niyah, 8, left, Sharah, 5, and Gamar, 4.

In a press conference late Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie strongly urged school leaders to keep their doors closed at least for Monday. “I think moving kids around on school buses might not be the most optimal thing to do,” he said. Most of the New Jersey coast is under a mandatory evacuation order.

In Maryland, all 24 school systems were shut down Monday and most had already canceled classes for Tuesday as well, according to William Reinhard, a spokesman for the state department of education. Maryland’s public K-12 enrollment is roughly 870,000 students, he said.

The 45,000-student District of Columbia schools were closed on Monday, as were all of the large districts in the Virginia suburbs that surround the nation’s capital. Both the District of Columbia school system and Fairfax County, Va., schools, which has 178,000 students, will also be closed on Tuesday. And in Delaware, all schools were shuttered on Monday, state education department spokeswoman Alison Kepner said.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday morning that it would extend the application deadline for its Race to the Top district competition, which was originally set for Oct. 30. The department did not say what the new deadline would be.

A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2012 edition of Education Week

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