Tag Archives: Department of Education

Rego Park special needs school closing, displacing vulnerable students


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

A Rego Park school for children with special needs closes on Friday and many of the disabled students of the year-round school have nowhere to go, family members told The Courier.

Life-Skills School, which served students with mental and secondary emotional challenges ages 9 through 21, was the only school of its kind in Queens.

Its closure leave a vulnerable population without a local specialized school to go to.

“I have no real options for my brother right now,” Theresa Michie, whose brother Randy attended Life-Skills, said. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Parents and guardians of about 43 students received a notice from the school saying it was closing in 90 days, as required by the state, but many say they were not given enough time to make other arrangements.

While some parents have already found schools for their children, many children have yet to be placed.

“No one knew until late May that this was going to happen,” said Peg Rasmussen, whose daughter Gabriella goes to the school. “It was cruel to wait so long to tell us.”

Rasmussen was one of the lucky ones. She said she was able to place her daughter in an appropriate school with the assistance of state Sen. Joe Addabbo’s office.

“I was very fortunate to be able to help Mrs. Rasmussen and her daughter,” state Sen. Addabbo said, “but there are still children that need the proper assistance.

Barbara Hendricks, director of the Life-Skills board of trustees, said she only gave the allotted amount of time because she was trying to look for other options and because if she had told families earlier, she would have had “pure chaos on [her] hands.”

“The school was running on a deficit for years now,” Hendricks said. “We wouldn’t have been able to fund the programs our students need this year. I did not want to do this. It was a very difficult decision.”

Life-Skills is a nonprofit private school that is publicly funded by New York State. With salaries, high rent prices and the lack of enrollment, the school did not have enough money and now must shut its doors, according to Hendricks.

When the closure notices went out, each child was paired with case worker to help with the placement process. The options for many parents depended on the classification of disabilities their children have. Some children were placed in private specialized schools in Queens, but others were given the option of going out of the borough or to District 75 public schools, such as Randy was offered.

But some children, like Randy, who go to Life-Skills have been let down by public schooling already, which makes his sister reluctant to put him back in the system.

“I took him out of public school already because it was not working for him,” said Michie, who lives in Astoria. “Now, the only school like Life-Skills that is currently willing to take him is in Westchester. I can’t send him there.”

There were many days that Michie had to rush over to Life-Skills because of situations involving her brother.

She said if she sends Randy to Westchester and a problem arose it would take her over an hour to get there, which is too long for her to feel safe.

Hendricks said that 95 percent of the displaced children have been offered slots in private schools “all over” the city and surrounding counties, but 13 families had yet to accept the outplacement. She added that she frequently follows up with the Department of Education and that they are working closely with all students to place them in schools that work for them.

For now, guardians and parents who do not like the options they were given will have to keep looking for viable schools. Michie said it is very difficult to find a school close enough for a child with multiple disabilities, like her brother Randy.

“We just have to hope that we can find a place to send Randy,” Michie, who cancelled a trip to Florida just in case she has to meet with a school, said. “[Since she got the letter] It’s been a headache every day.”

 

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Renderings reveal look of new P.S./I.S. 314 school in Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Department of Education


The School Construction Authority posted renderings of P.S./I.S. 314 in Jamaica, giving residents a glimpse into the future of a new school in the neighborhood. 

The school, which will be located on the corner of 164th Street and Hillside Avenue, is just one of many coming to the borough in the next few years to target overcrowding. It was approved by the City Council in 2011.

It will be four stories and approximately 113,092 square feet, according to city filings, and accommodate more than 830 students, from pre-K through the eighth-grade. It is expected to open in September 2015.

Gruzen Samton Architects of IBI Group designed the building, which is shaped like an “L” and organized into two main components: a four-story academic wing with classrooms, offices, a cafeteria and library, and a three-story public assembly wing, which houses the gymnasium and an auditorium.

To see more renderings of the project click here.

 

 

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Workers to receive nearly $400K in underpaid wages


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Office

After not being fully paid for contracted work, two workers, including an Astoria man, have been given what they were rightfully owed.

City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced an agreement with National Insulation & GC, Corp., in which the company admitted to “willfully and knowingly failing to pay two employees,” Astoria resident Angel Ribadeneira and Francisco Ayala from Brooklyn, a prevailing wage for contracted work.

Both men were hired by National Insulation to do insulation work at city public schools between December 2006 and November 2010, according to the comptroller’s office. An investigation by the comptroller’s office, prompted by a DOE referral and provided evidence, revealed allegations of under reporting hours, misclassification of workers and use of “ghost workers” on sites.

“We have found that all too often, employees are fleeced out of money to which they’re entitled by unscrupulous contractors looking to cut corners,” Stringer said. “These employees worked hard for their salaries and they deserve to get every cent that’s rightfully owed to them.”

National Insulation will pay a fine of $435,666.72, including more than $39,000 in civil penalties to the city, as a result of the settlement.

“I’m thrilled,” said Ribadeneira, who received a $102,000 payout. “I’m going to make certain my wife and I will have enough to live on comfortably and set aside money for my three sons and six grandchildren.”

Ayala is receiving $294,000.

 

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Free lunches for kids to be distributed at Queens libraries this summer


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY PAULINA TAM

Twenty-two Queens Library locations, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education (DOE), will be distributing free summer meals to children and teens 18 years and under starting June 27 to August 29.

Bagged lunches will be served every Monday through Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and each will generally include a fresh sandwich, fruit, milk and sometimes a salad, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.

“The library is an open public space and we want to attract people to come to the library,” King said. “While they’re here they can have free access to other programs. The Queens Library also has a very robust summer reading program and we want to encourage people to get involved with that so they can be better prepared for the academic program in the fall.”

There is no application, qualification or ID necessary to receive a free meal. Children and teens are recommended to arrive early to get lunches, while supplies last. The Queens Library is just one of many agencies collaborating with the DOE, and interested parties could call 311 to get a full list of participating locations.

Listed below are the participating Queens Library locations:

312 Beach 54 St., Arverne

14-01 Astoria Blvd., Astoria

117-11 Sutphin Blvd., Baisley Park

218-13 Linden Blvd., Cambria Heights

1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway

41-17 Main St., Flushing

202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis

89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

134-26 225th St., Laurelton

98-30 57th Ave., Lefrak City

37-44 21st St., Long Island City

40-20 Broadway (at Steinway Street), Long Island City

92-24 Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park

158-21 Jewel Ave., Pomonok (Flushing)

103-34 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill

169-09 137th Ave., Rochdale Village

116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park

204-01 Hollis Ave., South Hollis

108-41 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

85-41 Forest Pkwy., Woodhaven

54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside

 

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DOE votes to bus more than 250 Woodside students to Astoria school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents have lost the fight to keep their children close to home.

The Department of Education (DOE) voted on Wednesday night to temporary relocate more than 250 students from P.S.11 in Woodside to P.S. 171 in Astoria for the next three years.

The relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I have maintained that the expansion of P.S. 11 is a necessary investment in our children’s education and is vitally important to alleviating our overcrowded schools,” Congressman Joseph Crowley said. “However, I am disappointed and troubled by the DOE’s lack of foresight to avoid this terrible situation.”

Crowley added, “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families. Our children only get one real opportunity at a great education and it is unfortunate our city cannot do right by them.”

Seven members of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted in favor of the proposal, while two were against and one abstained from voting.

Since December, parents and elected officials fought to keep the students closer to their Woodside homes and last month asked the DOE to consider renting space in the nearby former St. Teresa School building.

But P.S.11 parents say the DOE told them the former Catholic school would not be practical for the students due to lack of adequate resources at the site.

“Where there is a will there should be a way,” said Martin Connolly, whose youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year and faces being bused to Astoria. “We are just disappointed. At the moment we are just accepting the situation.”

“We are now looking very seriously at our son’s future,” the father of three said.

Connolly also has two other children currently at P.S. 11, a daughter in second grade and son in kindergarten.

“After extensive outreach to the community, we decided to move forward on delivering a state-of-the-art addition to P.S. 11 that will enrich student’s academic experience and reduce overcrowding,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: P.S. 117 PTA missing $30K, graduation ruined for students


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Nearly 170 graduating students of P.S. 117 in Briarwood may not receive their caps and gowns and may miss out on senior events at the end of their elementary school experience because $30,000 is missing from the accounts of the school’s PTA, The Courier has learned.

The Department of Education (DOE) has launched a probe into the missing money, and the current PTA is barred from fundraising and any other financial dealings, officials said.

Parents learned earlier this year there may not be a senior dance, a school yearbook or graduation regalia because those items were all funded by the now-penniless parent teacher organization.

“I feel hurt, because it’s not right that our kids don’t get these things,” said Nicole Lopez, a parent from Jamaica whose son, Justice, is in the graduating class. “Other kids got them and they take them for granted, but it’s a memory and memories last forever.”

Graduating seniors will receive T-shirts and go on a senior trip, for which parents are required to pay
$65 per child to offset costs. They will also have a graduation ceremony with awards, but without wearing traditional garbs.

The school’s principal, Paula Cunningham, refused to comment on the situation and directed calls to the DOE. The DOE confirmed the audit, but wouldn’t answer further questions.

“This  matter is currently under review  internally, we are  unable to  provide additional  information at  this time due to the pendency of the ongoing investigation,” a DOE spokesman wrote in an email.

During a recent meeting at the  school led by the  new PTA  leadership,  Cunningham  told   parents  that   her hands are  tied  in  the  situation, even  as  parents suggested  increasing senior dues  to cover  the nearly  $6,000 needed to make the  graduation special.

The  dance is  estimated to  cost about $2,000, the yearbook could be  about $1,650 and  caps  and  gowns would be $13.50 per student, or more  than $2,200 total, according to parents’ estimates.

“We  as  a building, as  a school, are  allowed to  have one  fundraiser for  the  entire year.  That  fundraiser was supposed to be for the entire school,” Cunningham said. “We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  caps  and gowns. We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  a prom. We sent  out  letters explaining that  the  PTA paid for things that  cost  a lot of money.”

Parents and  students are  outraged and  they  feel their kids  are  being  thrown under the  “school” bus  because not  much is being  done to remedy the  situation.

“I think [the  school is] being  selfish and  that  they just want to do what they  want, and  they  aren’t  thinking of the  kids,”  Lopez said.

Dozens of parents have  begun to hold weekly  senior committee meetings, sacrificing time  on  busy  weekday nights to  figure  out  how  raise  the  necessary money to create a yearbook and  senior dance.

But time is against them:  the “Moving Up Ceremony” is scheduled for June  25.

While  parents are  scrambling, kids  are  hoping they don’t  lose  out  of their  full graduation celebration after years  of hard work.

“I want to  be  able  to  remember fifth  grade,” Justice said,  “because it’s the  only  year [in elementary school] that  I’m actually going  to be able  to graduate.”

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Pols ask for closer alternative for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Woodside parents and politicians are asking the Department of Education to consider renting space in a nearby former Catholic school building rather than busing the kindergarten and first-graders miles away to Astoria.

Last week, a group of elected officials sent a letter to the DOE asking it to send the students from P.S. 11 in Woodside to the former St. Teresa School building, instead of P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The letter came as the agency announced the vote on the Woodside school’s partial co-location and re-siting had been postponed until April 9.

The 3-year relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, is a result of the School Construction Authority’s plan to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

In the letter the officials wrote the new option would provide the students the adequate space needed for a safe and positive learning environment, together with keeping in mind the concerns of parents. It would also keep the children in the same neighborhood.

P.S. 199 in Long Island City currently rents the first floor of the St. Teresa building for its kindergarten classes. The second and third floors are unoccupied, according to the officials.

Martin Connolly, father of three, was happy to hear about the DOE’s vote postponement and believes moving the children to the St. Teresa building would make it manageable for both the families and students.

“We as a family are more comfortable with the idea. We would like to keep our kids close by, we don’t believe our children are old enough to travel that distance every day,” said Connolly, who has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11. His youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year. “They’re toddlers, they’re still babies.”

The Woodside father also said other parents have not been told exactly what will happen during the three years of the temporary co-location and that when parents sign their children up for P.S. 11, they are not made aware of the re-siting.

“The DOE needs to know that everyone should be made aware of this,” he said. “They need to realize that everybody’s child is precious to them.”

The DOE did not respond to request for comment by press time.

 

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DOE postpones vote on temporary relocation plans of Woodside’s P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan

The Department of Education (DOE) announced the vote on a Woodside school’s partial co-location and re-siting has been postponed.

Next month, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will decide if kindergarten and first grade students from P.S. 11 in Woodside will be sent to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The three-year relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I am encouraged by the collaborative effort by the Department of Education, the School Construction Authority and the Mayor’s Office to delay the vote on the proposal to bus over 250 kindergartners from Woodside to a school almost three miles away in Astoria,” said Congressmember Joseph Crowley. “Every alternative must be considered to ensure that these young children receive a quality education without having to be uprooted from their home community.”

Last month, Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11 to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation to move forward with the plan.

The PEP was originally going to vote on the proposal on March 18 but will now vote on April 9.

 

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DOE withdraws co-location plans


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

From the 49 co-location proposals released last year for schools all around the city, the Department of Education (DOE) has announced it will be withdrawing nine and revising one.

Two plans that have now been withdrawn included opening a K-4 Success Academy charter school in August Martin High School in Jamaica and bringing a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) high school to Long Island City High School. The rest of the plans involve schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“The previous administration handed over these proposals – and we have had to review all of them under inflexible deadlines. While the circumstances for each proposal are unique, we identified clear criteria and we followed it,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “We were deliberate in our decisions and, under the circumstance we inherited, believe is the best approach.”

In reviewing the proposals, the DOE identified four “core values” that will be used to evaluate co-locations: new elementary schools should not be opened on high school campuses; the new schools must have the resources needed to provide services the students deserve; depending on capital work to make space for the co-location; and seats must not be reduced in District 75, serving special needs students.

The agency also took into consideration deadlines and the impact some of the proposals would have on thousands of families.

“If there is one thing school communities should know, it’s this: we’re going to do things differently,” Fariña said. “Today, we are turning the page on the approach of the past. We are going to listen and be responsive like never before, and that will be reflected in everything we do.”

The Career and Technical Education high school proposed for LIC High School is now planned to be moved to Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan.

“This is a win for all of us in the community, but most of all for the students who only want the resources they deserve to receive a proper education,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said about LIC High School.

The DOE plans to host a meeting for each school community of the proposals that will be implemented. The meeting will help discuss next steps and also allow the DOE to engage with parents and school officials.

Councilmember Mark Weprin said that he is disappointed to learn that the DOE still plans on pursuing its plan to co-locate another school at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village. However, he said he has heard that the DOE will work with the local community to make sure the programs at the school meet the community’s needs.


THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan 

“We want to make Martin Van Buren a destination high school once again,” Weprin said.

 

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De Blasio details after-school program expansion plan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Updated 1:55 p.m.

Mayor Bill de Blasio released an interagency report Monday detailing plans to expand after-school programs to more public middle school students in the city.

The implementation would place programs in all schools with middle school students that do not currently have after-school services as well as non-public school sites, such as community centers and libraries, according to the report.

The expansion, like de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten, will require an increase on local income tax for the city’s highest earners.

“This is a critical investment that will transform our schools—but it is also a powerful policy to keep kids out of trouble and fight the influences that can take them off the right path. We need the power to make this investment now,” the mayor said.

De Blasio said the city has “the capacity to ramp up immediately.” But what is still needed, however, is the funding, which would require approval from Albany for the tax increase.

The $190 million proposal will provide an additional 62,791 middle school students with the opportunity to attend free after-school programs, starting in September 2014.

Currently, the Department of Education and Department of Youth and Community Development provide after-school programs that serve approximately 56,369 students in 239 schools each year. The expansion will increase the number of schools with programs to 512.

Funding would also go toward boosting existing programs by increasing their hours of operation.

 

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Katz names Queens representative on Panel for Educational Policy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Borough President Melinda Katz

Borough President Melinda Katz has picked Deborah Dillingham of Forest Hills to serve on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

The 13-member board, with representatives from each borough, votes to approve school policies, many which are controversial. Each borough president appoints one member to the PEP and the mayor appoints eight.

“Through her extensive work with our city’s school system, Deborah has shown she has the knowledge, savvy and commitment necessary to be an outstanding member of the Panel for Educational Policy,” Katz said.

Dillingham was president of District 28’s Community Education Council and served on the Queens Borough President’s Parent Advisory Committee, the District 28 Leadership Team and the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee.

The mom of three was also president of the Parent’s Association of P.S. 101.

“She cares deeply about our children and the schooling they receive and has a track record of making sure our kids get the best education possible,” Katz said. “I know she will be a great asset to the PEP.”

Dillingham replaces Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who battled against school closures and co-location plans under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Fedkowskyj, of Middle Village, is mulling a run against incumbent State Senator Marge Markey.

 

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Parents, pols oppose temporary relocation plan for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents is sending the Department of Education (DOE) back to the drawing board.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave., to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation of sending the school’s kindergarten and first grade students to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The temporary relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I commend the DOE and the SCA for allocating millions of dollars towards this expansion,” Crowley said. “At the same time, though, we must ensure that our children, especially our youngest elementary students, are not displaced to a school outside of the confines of their own neighborhood.”

Last month, the elected officials sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urging her to reconsider the proposed plan.

According to the DOE’s proposal, the incoming kindergarten class and some first grade students would be transported by bus to P.S. 171, close to three miles away from their zoned school. Then for the 2015-16 school year the children would be relocated to a new elementary school located at 39-07 57th Street. For the third year, the students would then return to P.S. 11.

Woodside parent Julianne O’Riordan currently has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11, and her youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year.

“For the first three years of school he’s going to be moved around Queens like a piece on a chess board,” said O’Riordan, about her youngest son, Enda. “We love P.S. 11, its principal, teachers and staff. That is why we are upset that our younger children may not get to have the same wonderful experience that our daughter has enjoyed.”


Enda,4, and his 5-year-old brother Luke will have to go to P.S. 171 next year. (Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan)

Although the group of parents and elected officials are thrilled to be getting an expansion for the crowded school, they are calling on the DOE to look at different options that would keep the children in the community.

“Taking these kids and moving them miles away to school is going to damage their education and slow them down in their progress and it’s something we impose upon the [DOE] to fix, and fix before it becomes a problem,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said.

Throughout the process of deciding the best course of action during the estimated three year construction, consideration was given to every possible option, according to the DOE.

“Our aim is to deliver a state-of-the-art addition to the building, and as part of our newly announced engagement protocol, we will be scheduling a meeting with the entire school community,” said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield.

 

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Mayor de Blasio: City ready for pre-K plan if funding is secured


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


A progress report released by Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday shows the city has the capacity to implement his plan for universal pre-kindergarten starting this September—if the funding is available.

The report, “Ready to Launch,” found that though classroom space and quality programming is obtainable, securing funding for the plan remains the main challenge.

“This is real, this is achievable, but this something we can’t do without sustained dedicated resources,” de Blasio said.

In January, the mayor released his plan to provide free full-day pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in the city by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

The mayor would need permission from Albany for the increase, and could face roadblocks from state lawmakers.

At an average cost of $10,239 per child, 73,250 children would be eligible for full-day pre-kindergarten by the 2015-16 school year, beginning with 53,604 in September 2014.

The city needs 21,000 seats to meet its goal for this fall, according to the mayor. Since it began asking for proposals and applications from schools and community-based organizations, the Department of Education has received proposals for 29,000 seats.

The proposals also offer detailed plans on curriculum and how the schools and organizations will identify, train and support teaching staff.

“We already know demand from families for high quality, full-day pre-K is exceptionally high – and these numbers confirm that we are ready to deliver,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said.

“The number of sites and seats proposed far exceeds numbers from last year,” with a 93 percent jump in the number of full-day sites proposed compared to last year’s results, according to the report.

In Queens, 113 sites were proposed in 2013. This year, there were 214.

 

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NYC recovers from another storm; more snow in forecast


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Victor G. Mimoni

Updated 6:50 p.m.

The borough was once again buried in almost a foot of snow after the sixth storm of the season struck the city Thursday, and even more flakes could fall this weekend.

Snowfall totals around Queens varied, but Bayside reported as much as 11.8 inches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

For the second day in a row, residents faced a less-than-perfect morning commute with a hazardous travel advisory still in effect through Friday morning.

The MTA said service should be close to normal on subways, buses and Long Island Rail Road for the evening commute.

The situation for commuters Friday was much better than yesterday morning when heavy snow coated the roads.

Despite those dangerous conditions the city’s public schools were open Thursday.

Parents, students, teachers and even famed weatherman Al Roker blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to keep the schools open.

De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, however, defended the move.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said Thursday. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent yesterday, according to a preliminary report from the Department of Education (DOE) released Thursday afternoon.

Public schools were again open Friday and all field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities are operating normally, the DOE said.

“We understand that weather conditions may be challenging for families. As always, parents should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children. Safety is a top priority for the Department, and we make these decisions only after careful consideration. We want to thank parents, students, and educators for your cooperation during this very difficult winter,” Fariña said.

Alternate side parking regulations, and garbage and recycling pick-up are suspended through Saturday.

The Department of Sanitation will likely be spending the weekend clearing snow off the streets.

The city agency has issued a “snow alert” starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

About 2 to 4 inches of snow could fall during the day tomorrow, starting in the early morning, according to NWS.

 

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Decision to keep NYC public schools open despite snow creates more controversy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Updated 4:30 p.m. 

Parents of public school students are telling city officials, they failed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday night that the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, despite the forecast of 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow.

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent, according to a preliminary report from the DOE released Thursday afternoon.

Although, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the snow came down “heavier and faster” than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, he said the right decision was made.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

Schools have been canceled only a total of 11 times since 1978, according to de Blasio.

“It’s a rarity and it’s something we do not do lightly,” he said.

Both the mayor and schools chancellor said they want to open up communication so parents understand the thinking that goes into making the decision to keep schools open.

“It’s our obligation to run a school system,” he said. “Given what we knew, we knew our children could get to school safely.”

Yet, even as Fariña said it had turned into a “beautiful day” after the morning snow, parents were outraged with the idea that their children’s lives were put in danger.

“I decided to not send my kids to school because it is too dangerous out there. The roads, at least by me are bad, buses are getting stuck and I don’t want to risk it,” said Michelle Rojas, mother of two from Flushing. “[City officials] are not thinking. They can make the days up.”

Sara Alvarez, mother of three, said she learned her lesson from the last snowstorm and did not want to go through the “chaos” once again.

“One day less of class doesn’t matter, what’s most important is the security of our children,” she said. “The last snowstorm was chaos and can you imagine when it comes to dismissal? It’ll be a whole other chaos.”

One local school bus operator, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although all her “dedicated” workers made it in and every bus went out on its route to pick up students, she is still concerned about the conditions on the road.

“I am livid. This is a very dangerous storm,” she said. “I am very concerned about school buses driving in this condition. I will not be happy until all the buses come back today.”

Fariña said students and staff would have excused lateness during such snow emergencies, but absences would still not be excused.

“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”

Field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities, however, are all cancelled today.

 

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