NY1 Exclusive: Looting Reported In Storm-Damaged Public Schools
Eleven days after Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway Beach neighborhood around Scholars' Academy was like no-man's land. Residents fled, leaving behind downed wires, waterlogged debris and sand soaked with heating oil.
But the doors to the school building were open, similar to what we saw at other damaged schools across the city. Contracted crews moved in and out, pumping, repairing and decontaminating, all to get students back as soon as possible.
Yet at some point, school officials say someone must have entered the building and exited with about $100,000 worth of stolen equipment.
"We discovered that approximately 90 iPads were stolen and six to 10 iMacs," said Brian O'Connell, the principal of Scholars' Academy.
It wasn't just pricey tablets and computers. Also reported missing were two automated external defibrillators, each estimated to be worth about $1,600.
This was not an isolated incident. The New York City Department of Education says 30 schools have reported looting so far. Among the items missing include cameras, calculators and a projector.
Officials say they don't yet know the overall value, but there is no insurance to cover it.
"Now it's a scramble to ensure that our current equipment and infrastructure or materials that are intact remain secure, and also, that we can begin the process of gaining support to help replace some of these items," O'Connell said.
Of course, the loss comes on top of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of storm damage to schools. But teachers say it's the theft that really stings.
Education officials say the Scholars' Academy building is still not inhabitable, and students are crammed into classrooms in Brooklyn.
"We've been trying our best to make the best of the situation," said one student.
Most of them don't yet know about the looting. Teachers were trying to shield them from any more burden.