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Students, nursing home evacuees tenuously share campus after Sandy

November 07, 2012|By Shashank Bengali
  • Children pass debris and garbage from Superstorm Sandy piled along a Coney Island sidewalk as they walk to school in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Children pass debris and garbage from Superstorm Sandy piled along a Coney… (Mark Lennihan / Associated…)

NEW YORK -- Students returned to classes Wednesday at one of New York City’s elite high schools even as their cafeteria and some classrooms remained occupied by more than 200 evacuees from Superstorm Sandy.

The seventh and eighth floors of Brooklyn Technical High School continued to house patients from two nursing homes that remain uninhabitable after Sandy blasted the region last Monday.

At the height of the crisis the school housed about 600 evacuees from Coney Island, the Rockaways and other hard-hit areas of Brooklyn and Queens. The city is trying to relocate the remaining 200 to 250 patients -- some with mental disabilities -- to other facilities. School officials, however, were unclear when that would occur.

“I wish I knew,” said principal Randy Asher.

The shared facility presents an uncomfortable situation. Teachers said that classrooms housing the evacuees smelled of garbage and human waste. School officials said Wednesday that students weren’t allowed on the floors housing evacuees and that extra security had been ordered.

With the seventh-floor cafeteria occupied by evacuees, students ate boxed lunches in the school auditorium. And with delays still dogging the city’s transit lines, the school is running on a truncated schedule, starting classes two hours later, at 10 a.m., and shrinking periods to 30 minutes.

All this comes after New York City’s more than 1 million public school students got an unexpected week off after Sandy damaged or knocked out power to many school buildings and turned eight major facilities -- including Brooklyn Tech, a magnet school that draws 5,500 students from across the city -- into emergency shelters.

Most of the evacuees have since been transferred to other facilities. But at John Jay High School, children staying at the shelter developed norovirus, a stomach illness that comes with vomiting and diarrhea, and officials informed parents Tuesday that the school would remain closed Wednesday so that it could be sanitized.

We are taking every precaution and following Department of Health protocol to ensure your campus is clean and sanitary before it opens for classes,” schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott wrote in a letter to parents on Monday. “We will be sanitizing all areas, including bathrooms and public areas. All door knobs also will be wiped clean and sanitized.”

At Brooklyn Tech, no such health issues have been reported. Students who trekked to classes late Wednesday morning, bundled up ahead of the arrival of a bitter nor’easter storm, said the presence of evacuees was an inconvenience.

“The school is already crowded,” said Saban Rahman, a sophomore. “Hopefully this won’t go on for a lot longer.”

ALSO:

One patient found dead in North Carolina hospital fire

Former Penn State president Spanier arraigned; out on bail

Second storm to hit Sandy-damaged Northeast; evacuations ordered

sbengali@latimes.com

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