School Officials from Around the State Share Testimony on Present & Future Challenges
Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex) held a hearing on Thursday with school officials from some of the hardest hit districts in the state to discuss Hurricane Sandy’s impact on school operations, including the storm’s effect on infrastructure, the displacement of students and school personnel, and the use of schools as shelters.
“Hurricane Sandy affected nearly every school district in one way or another, but for many of our shore towns the effects have been monumental and in many cases they’re still unfolding. What’s clear is that in tackling these unprecedented challenges, our schools have risen to the occasion and gone above and beyond the call in many circumstances.
“Many schools opened their doors as shelters for the surrounding community. Belmar had their teachers walking door-to-door to provide important notices to families. As another official noted today, they’ve been helping displaced students and families with a myriad of personal issues beyond simply conducting routine school business.
“School officials have worked around the clock to rearrange the remaining calendar to meet the 180 day school year requirement, but with winter yet to arrive, any severe weather could throw them another curveball. Budget planning will also present an enormous challenge this year, especially for districts that suffered major damage and whose towns will see significant revenue shortfalls due to the loss of properties. The sooner schools can access their needs and provide a snapshot of their budget situation, the better equipped we can be to work with them during the state budget planning process.
“This was, without a doubt, an informative hearing. I commend school officials statewide, as well as the Governor and the Department of Education for the work they’ve done to stay on top of this issue, particularly when it comes to communicating important information. Looking ahead, there are many immediate challenges our districts face and we must work together in a bipartisan fashion in Trenton to help them in whatever way we can,” said Diegnan.