Uprooted in Storm, Students Endure Trek to Class

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life for the students of Rockaway Park — among the 33 schools that remain severely damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy — has been upended. Many have been scattered across New York City, with relatives or in shelters.

“We’re concerned,” said Jennifer Izzo, the guidance counselor. “We still can’t find some of them.”

The city’s Education Department has reassigned 15,000 displaced students to other schools; the students and teachers of Rockaway Park are being sent to the Maspeth High School campus in Queens. Parents were upset, since their new school, like their old neighborhood, is not easily reached by public transportation. So the city agreed to send coach buses to Rockaway Park to take the students to and from their temporary school.

Every morning, students like Nadia reverse their flight from the Rockaways. But last week, when school resumed, the buses either did not show up or showed up late in the morning. On the first day back, only 30 of the school’s 284 students arrived; the next day, the buses did not show up. The principal, Jennifer Connolly, had no way to reach most parents because they were not living at home and cellphone coverage was spotty.

On Tuesday morning, students were lined up in the cold, and the buses were waiting. But parents could not find any teachers or staff members. “It’s a nightmare,” said one mother, Jessica Alvarez, who was wearing pajama bottoms and drinking coffee. She had received different messages about what time the buses would be there, she said, and she had called the school 10 times to try to get an answer.

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