The Lawrence School District is working to become the point of aid for the community with the Office of Emergency Management and FEMA, with a help center to be set up at Number Two School.
“Looking disaster in the eye is traumatic and a wake up call,” Superintendent Gary Schall told hundreds of residents at the Lawrence High School gym on Friday. “The lesson here is we have to take one hand and rebuild our houses and the other hand to help rebuild others’ houses.”
The Office of Emergency Management is coordinating with Island Harvest, Red Cross and Verizon to set up a station at the Inwood school. It may be up and running as early as today. Another meeting will be held tomorrow in the Lawrence High School cafeteria for students and parents to discuss school issues at 11 a.m., followed by a meeting to coordinate volunteer efforts at noon.
School will not be back in session in the district until four components are active, Schall said. Electricity, running water, sewage and traffic lights are needed before classes can resume. Once those things are available, school can start 24 hours later. Athletics Director Pat Pizzarelli said it is up to the athletes if they want to resume practice.
One thing students do not have to worry about is college applications, Schall said.
Electricity is a big concern for the Five Towns, as most residents are still without power. According to officials at the meeting, a dozen substations that provide power to the Five Towns are out, but LIPA may fix them during the weekend.
Fortunately, all of Lawrence’s school buildings fared well during the storm, said Director of Facilities Christopher Milano.
“All indications are that the buildings withstood the storm very well,” he said.
However, many people’s homes in the district did not fare as well. Houses in Inwood, Atlantic Beach, Meadowmere Park, Cedarhurst and Lawrence sustained flooding, and some may be uninhabitable.
Hempstead Town Councilman James Darcy has been coordinating with Schall for the past few days, and was on hand to offer support to residents.
“We’re out and about in the community. We’re doing the best we can,” he said. He compared the situation to being on a sinking boat and jokingly warned he may lead a revolt if conditions don’t improve.
Darcy also added, “If they have resources to run a marathon, they have resources to help us out.”
Inwood Fire Department Chief Rich Magliaro told residents without power to immediately shut off all the breakers in the homes, and then turn off the main.
“We don’t need a fire at your house,” he said. “You’ve got your house, don’t let it burn down.”
He also said that the drinking water in the Five Towns is safe to consume. Magliaro reminded residents to only call the fire department for real emergencies, and specifically said not to call about chirping fire and carbon monoxide alarms.
“Watch out for you and your neighbors,” he said. “If you see some people that shouldn’t be there, get them out.”
Finally, the Lawrence School District has offered to open its campuses to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, whose student population mostly resides in School District 15. The district is working on setting up temporary classrooms on school grounds for those 780 students.
The school building in Long Beach was in good shape, Schall said, but due to conditions in the city, cannot be used. HALB boys’ high school, DRS in Woodmere, was badly flooded, with major sections underwater. The girls’ high school, SKA in Hewlett Bay Park, had some flooding, but the damage is unclear.
“It’s somewhat comforting to know we can come together as a Lawrence school family,” Schall said. “We’ll come together through this. We do have a long road ahead of us.”