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Sandy Damage In School Basements Proves Costly

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More than seven weeks after Hurricane Sandy, students have returned to most of the schools that were damaged, but that doesn't mean the schools don't need a lot of work. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

If you visit P.S. 188 in Coney Island, you might not notice anything is wrong.

The lights are on. The heat is on. The children have returned to their classrooms and are learning. But under the surface, the building is seriously damaged.

There is no hot water, which means the kitchen isn't able to reopen. The phone system is wiped out, cutting off communication within the building and with the outside world. Heat comes from an exterior, temporary system.

"We lost quite a bit of material here," said Frederick Tudda, the principal of P.S. 188.

For 10 schools, their buildings won't even reopen until sometime in the new year. At dozens of other schools, there is also extensive damage, and the required repairs are likely to be extremely expensive. That's because the most valuable equipment in school buildings is not in classrooms or computer labs, but in the basements, basements that filled to the ceiling with salt water.

Thirty-six schools no longer have a phone system. Twenty-two need new boilers. Twelve are still without power.

It often costs about $4.5 million to replace boilers at just one school, according to the education capital plan. Then there's electrical panels, fan motors, switch gears, air handles, oil pumps, water pumps, return pumps and a rat's nest of piping.

P.S. 188 lost brand-new snowblowers, lawnmowers, tractors, industrial power washers, gardening equipment, floor buffers and vacuum cleaners, all stored in the basement. Other supplies, such as paint, cleaning material, paper towels and toilet paper, are all gone.

"This is the most devastating thing that our members have had to deal with, I think, ever," said Shirley Aldebol of 32BJ, the school cleaners' union.

It will be months and will cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to get everything underneath the schools back up and running.

"We're working closely with City Hall, but also FEMA reimbursement, and we have a very ambitious capital budget," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

They say they still don't know how much it will all cost. In the meantime, they're trying to keep things as normal as possible above ground.

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