Over 1,400 children in five Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy. The affected schools include: Ave Maria Catholic Academy, Howard Beach; St. Camillus School, Rockaway Beach; St. Francis de Sales School, Belle Harbor; St. Helen’s School, Howard Beach; and St. Rose of Lima School, Rockaway Beach. Officials from the Office of the Superintendent have been working closely with the principals and pastors of these schools, other diocesan offices and local officials to create a transition plan designed to meet the immediate needs of these students and their families, ensure their ability to continue to receive a Catholic education and if possible, maintain these school communities intact.
An immediate first step is the need to identify and locate all the families whose children are enrolled in these five schools. In a press release issued on Saturday, Nov. 3, the Office of the Superintendent provided a special toll-free telephone number to establish contact. The number is 1-800-963-6715. Over 260 families have already called the number. This is the first step in the recovery process. We anticipate that all families that have called the special toll-free number will receive this update by e-mail no later than Sunday morning, Nov. 4.
While the whereabouts of all affected families are determined, a number of initiatives are simultaneously underway. Each school building is being assessed to ascertain a possible date when the building may be reopened. Alternative sites are being identified where entire school communities may be invited to temporarily relocate while repairs are underway to their damaged school. Busing routes for children are also being identified if relocation of any entire school community to a new temporary site is judged feasible. All of these initiatives will be completed shortly and provide the basis for the recommendations that will be made to parents by Tuesday evening, Nov. 6.
Some families may have already relocated to another part of the diocese. Those families already relocated are invited to enroll their children in the Catholic school/academy nearest to where they are now living. Principals have been asked to welcome all families that have moved into their community. Since this is a short-term enrollment with the goal of getting students back into a learning environment, the receiving schools/academies will be able to apply for scholarships for the students that have relocated.
The Office of the Superintendent has asked to meet with all Catholic elementary school principals this Thursday morning. The main purpose of this meeting will be to provide detailed procedures regarding how such transfers are to be handled, the resources that will be made available to the children and families traumatized by the storm and its aftermath and all tuition-related issues.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who shepherds the Catholic Church in Brooklyn and Queens, has also asked that any available scholarship money be allocated to the children enrolled in the affected Catholic schools. More information regarding the availability of this scholarship money will be released shortly.
“Hurricane Sandy has dramatically altered the lives of tens of thousands of people in our diocese,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “As Bishop, I have special concern for our young people who have been displaced and therefore I ask that all remaining scholarship money be made available to any of those families who would like to enroll their child in a Catholic school or academy of their choosing within our diocese.”
“The extent of damage to the schools has yet to be confirmed, and as information becomes available it will be made to all the families that have called 1-800-963-6715,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, diocesan Superintendent of Schools. “Recognizing the need to provide a stable environment for our children’s learning, Catholic schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens will be accepting children affected by Hurricane Sandy that have relocated to another part of the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
The next update will be sent out on Tuesday, Nov. 6.