Irene Delays Opening Of Schools Across East Coast

Thursday, September 1, 2011

WHITMAN, Mass. -- Parents may be ready to send their kids back to school, but some schools aren't ready to take them back.

Power failures, flooding, road closures and other problems left by Irene have led some superintendents in New England and elsewhere in the East to delay the start of school.

Parents have had to scramble to find child care for kids who were supposed to be in school but now will be hanging around the house longer than expected.

"I hired baby sitters for the summer, but they're done now," said Tara Coleran, of Whitman, Mass., who has been busy searching for someone to watch her three boys this week because their first day of school, originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been delayed until Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.

Coleran, a bookkeeper for a nonprofit, said she expects to miss up to three days of work because she can't find a babysitter.

"I know people in the area who I could ask, but everybody has no power, so it's difficult," she said.

The school year is also expected to start late in other districts including some in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Vermont.

An extra day or week of summer vacation may be fun for kids, but the calendar reshuffling has caused problems for school administrators who must now reset schedules so students can make up the missed days either during the school year or at the end.

School officials in the Massachusetts communities of Whitman, Hanson, Marlborough, East Bridgewater and Springfield were among those who decided to put off the start of school for one to three days because schools, homes or both were still without power Tuesday. School officials also said they were not comfortable opening and allowing children to walk to schools while utility crews are still removing downed power lines.

"In a nutshell, it's just the lack of power and making sure we keep everybody safe and have everything ready for students when they come back," said Marlborough Superintendent Anthony Pope, who decided to push back the start date for the city's 4,700 students from Wednesday until next Tuesday.

"I have three kids of my own and I know how it is getting kids ready for the beginning of the school year, so we want to make sure that parents have that opportunity to get their children off to a good start," he said.

The school year has been postponed in some districts in Vermont, a landlocked state that was perhaps the hardest hit by Irene, then a tropical storm, with many roads washed out and entire communities cut off from the outside world.

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