City To Offer Online Classes For Displaced Students

With thousands of students still attending relocated schools and many others not living at home, education officials have a new option for kids who haven't been able to get back to class since the hurricane. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

At Scholars' Academy Wednesday, most of the students made it to class, even though they were crammed into classrooms in two different buildings in East New York, Brooklyn, a long way from the school's pre-Hurricane Sandy site in Rockaway Beach, Queens.

Scholars' Academy has had one of the highest attendance rates among the relocated schools, thanks to Herculean efforts by staff members, parents and students. But with 88 percent of students in class on Wednesday, teachers worry about the 12 percent who aren't.

"We have kids in Pennsylvania right now," said teacher Steve Kinney. "We had kids in Texas. I'm in New Jersey. I lived in Rockaway."

They decided that for some kids, the best route back to the classroom might start with a computer screen, and so a handful of Scholars' Academy students now start their school day with a 9 a.m. email to their teacher.

"They get what they need to do, what they plan on doing, so that they can see their work," Kinney said. "They check in with the teachers, who are putting all the information online, kind of an informal system. We are moving towards doing a more formal system."

That system will be a new citywide initiative that uses a technology platform some schools have been using for years. Education officials announced this week that any student from sixth through 12th grade who was displaced or whose school was displaced, can now enroll in online school.

Running the courses will be 100 city teachers who have experience in virtual learning, like Andrew Rabinovici, a teacher at Olympus Academy.

"I have a lot of friends and family whose houses were badly damaged by the storm," Rabinovici said. "I don't know how to build a house or make a fundraiser, so this is a way for me to kind of help out."

While there are thousands of students who could potentially sign up for these online courses, the New York City Department of Education doesn't know how many will, and that will determine how much it costs.

The course programs have all been donated by the companies that produce them, and city public libraries are signed up to help students get connected. Teachers just hope some of the kids still out of school now show up virtually, at least until the brick and mortar is back.

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