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GC School District Rides Out The Storm

Board of Education discusses Sandy’s effect on district calendar  

The Garden City Board of Education met with parents and teachers on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to discuss Hurricane Sandy’s effect on the school calendar.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen shared some of the problems the school district encountered in resuming classes, pointing out that the district’s main concern was student safety. One struggle included communicating with parents or making an alternate plan when all streams of communication, such as phone, email, and the Internet, were down or inaccessible. Feirsen said that even if the power had been restored, getting students to and from school safely would have been an issue as many roads were blocked with fallen trees and streetlights were not working, making intersections unsafe. 

One of the major topics of concern was how students would make up the missing school days. Garden City High School and area elementary schools missed six days of school, with the exception of Hemlock School, which was out for seven days. The middle school missed 10 days of school due to no power. All the schools are now below the state-mandated 180 days of classes required for a district to receive state aid, and with winter and possible snow days still on the way, there is growing concern for how the district will catch up.

Feirsen expressed his hope that legislation from the state government would be passed excusing Garden City from having to meet the 180-day requirement. But the state education law also requires the district to first make every effort to reclaim vacation days.

“Under these circumstances, I’d like our board and the community to understand it’s very possible that the midwinter recess might be shortened or abbreviated because we have to take back those days,” Feirsen said.

Feirsen said that this was especially crucial for students in AP and Regents classes, where time is a major factor when it comes to national and statewide exams. Students in science classes have to sit through a required number of labs before they are eligible to take the Regents exam and there is a certain amount of information AP classes must cover to be prepared for the national exams in May.

Members of the board thanked all the teachers, staff, parents, residents and others who worked hard to get the schools back in order and keep students safe. Fiersen stressed that the district did everything possible to restore power, noting that the storm provided an opportunity to reevaluate the district’s contingency plans.

“We are in the process of looking at all our departments and looking at what went well, what did not go well and what we can do to improve,” Fiersen said.

“We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” added school board president Colleen Foley. “I don’t know that any of us could have predicted that Sandy would have left us without power for 14 days. To a large extent, we have to look at the details within our own organization which we’re (already) doing, and then network with utilities like LIPA and Verizon and see what their plans are, and communicate with our elected officials.”

At the meeting, the board also discussed the ongoing renovation projects under way at Garden City schools. Representatives from BBS Architects and Engineers, TG Nickel and Associates and Con Edison Solutions noted that while there was no physical damage to the schools, time was lost because of the storm. However, work will resume this week. The board also took the time to highlight outstanding student achievement, recognizing recent award winners such as the National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and the News 12 Scholar Athlete award recipient.