weather report (updated)

No school for students until Monday; 200 school buildings hurt

Schools will remain closed for students for the rest of the week following Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg announced this afternoon.

But he said the city is asking teachers and school staff to report to work on Friday.

Two hundred of the city’s 1,400 school buildings had suffered some damage because of the storm, according to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who appeared with Bloomberg at the afternoon press conference. Most of the damage was minor, Bloomberg said, but other schools were hit harder.

“There’s an awful lot of schools that have received damage or don’t have power,” Bloomberg said. He added, “Hopefully by Monday everything will be back perfect.”

The 200 damaged schools are currently “not operational,” according to Erin Hughes, a Department of Education spokeswoman. Eighty-six schools currently do not have power, she said.

Hughes said the number would likely change as the department gets more information from schools in Zone A, the mandatory evacuation zone that received significant flooding.

Since the weekend, 76 school buildings have been used as evacuation shelters. In the coming days, Bloomberg said, those shelters will be consolidated into fewer locations.

Bloomberg said the Friday teacher workday would allow teachers and school staff to prepare for students’ return after an interruption of unprecedented length.

Told of Bloomberg’s announcement this afternoon, teachers at Red Hook’s P.S. 15, which was flooded, expressed disbelief that they could be expected to get any work done on Friday.

“Where are we supposed to go?” asked Marie Sirotniak, one of several teachers who had convened to provide assistance to families from the school.

In a press release, Walcott said the department would “provide more information to our staff, including those who may be required to report to a site other than their school.”

More than half of the city’s 23 subway lines are set to run starting Thursday morning, and the city is running special bus lines to help commuters. Yet some parts of the city remain unreachable by public transportation, including the most devastated sections of eastern Brooklyn and Queens and all of Manhattan below 34th Street, where the power has been out since late Monday and is likely to remain that way for several more days.

Most charter schools appeared to be following in the city’s footsteps and canceling classes for the rest of the week. At least one network, Success Academy Charter Schools, had already called off the week’s classes on Wednesday.

About the extended closure, Bloomberg said, “I know it’s an inconvenience for parents.” But he offered a consolation to families who have been “cooped up” this week with their children: City parks should reopen by later this week, and the weather will be perfect for an afternoon outside.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.