Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

School Schedules Difficult to Follow

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

School Schedules Difficult to Follow

Article excerpt

North Jersey's public schools have been mired in unprecedented disruption after Hurricane Sandy shut down almost every one of them all week, cut off communication among administrators and left thousands of parents wondering when their children would finally get back to class.

With many schools still lacking power late Friday, officials in some districts still didn't know when they could open. Some districts, such as Fair Lawn and Englewood, said they would be closed Monday as well as Tuesday for Election Day. Others, including New Milford, Englewood Cliffs and Paterson, said they would decide over the weekend if they could open Monday based on whether they have power.

The state Education Department reported late Friday that 251 of 589 districts had confirmed plans to open Monday. That figure did not include any Bergen County districts, and only two in Passaic -- Pompton Lakes and Woodland Park.

"As many districts are facing issues with power, this list is likely to drastically change over the weekend," said Barbara Morgan, a department spokeswoman.

So many families lacked phones and Internet access that even alerting them posed a challenge. In Fairview, Superintendent Louis DeLisio recruited police officers to drive through town to broadcast updates on loudspeakers. He said he expected schools to reopen Monday, saying he was "concerned about how much students have missed so far."

"For every day students have off, for every delay, it's a setback," New Milford Superintendent Michael Polizzi said. "Under normal circumstances, if you lose a few days it's not an issue, but we've lost a week."

Across North Jersey, teachers anticipated scrambling to catch up on lessons, and parents sought to keep children busy without the usual electronic devices and diversions. Many high school students, meanwhile, had to reschedule the SAT tests they were supposed to take today because dozens of test sites across the state were shut down.

The Education Department was hobbled all week by a disrupted email system. Commissioner Chris Cerf was fielding calls from his home in Montclair, where he had no electricity. For two days, he said, he was unable to reach Robert Gilmartin, the executive county superintendent for Bergen and Passaic counties, who had cellphone problems and no power. Several superintendents expressed frustration that they couldn't reach Gilmartin for guidance.

Many superintendents were talking with the leaders of union locals to try to reclaim next Thursday and Friday, which had been scheduled days off for the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City. As soon as the union announced this week the convention was canceled due to the storm, many districts sought to get those two days back.

The area's largest teachers union, the 2,700-member Paterson Education Association, agreed to work those days, said city Schools Superintendent Donnie Evans. …

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