Thursday, December 25, 2014

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NY1 Follow-Up: Students, Teachers At Evacuated School Face Months Of Eviction

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It turns out there are more structural problems with an East Village school building than we first knew. It was evacuated in September when it looked like one wall might collapse. But now officials admit more has to be done before the building is safe again. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Fewer than two weeks into the academic year, two schools became suddenly homeless.

Students and teachers from East Side Community School and Girls Prep Charter left their East 12th Street building after a maintenance worker saw the east wall had separated 17 inches from the building.

Now, officials say that emergency evacuation will mean months of eviction.

"We got the students and the staff out and our goal is to make sure that they have a safe environment," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

But the school building won't be safe for a while. In a letter to parents, education officials say they've inspected the entire building and "those probes have made clear we must do significant work to allow the building to be reoccupied."

It's not just the eastern wall, which officials say needs to be completely rebuilt, starting with the steel. The western wall also needs to be secured. They hope to finish by late February, move students back in and then replace the brick exterior after hours and on the weekends.

Student and teachers are squeezed into other school buildings in Chinatown, Murray Hill and the Upper East Side. Teachers and administrators say they've been working around-the-clock.

"They're doing everything they can to make sure that we have what we want and what we need to get a better education," said one student.

"Parents are volunteering, whatever we have to do to make it through," said one parent. "The biggest frustrating thing is the time frame."

At a meeting this week, parents asked DOE officials what will happen if construction is delayed.

"We got no answer," said one parent. "We had to watch our principal beg them - and he used the word beg on multiple occasions - our principal begged them to look for a plan C or a plan B."

"These are bureaucracies, working with their own agenda and their own set of rules and their own constraints," said another parent. "You're seeing it doesn't work well."

They also asked the DOE to explain how it happened.

"Somebody skimmed over this issue," said one parent. "A 60-foot section of a wall doesn't just spontaneously buckle out of a building and prepare to drop."

While they wait for answers and for their building, teachers and students say they're focused on learning under difficult circumstances.

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