Chatham Board of Education Discusses Extent of School Disruption in Hurricane Aftermath

CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham Board of Education held a lively one-hour meeting on Monday night to discuss several temporary changes to the school district in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

Southern Boulevard Elementary School has been greatly affected from the widespread power outages in both the Township and the Borough.  Because of the severe electrical damage from the storm along Southern Boulevard, school officials made the decision to temporarily relocate the students that attend the elementary school to other schools in the district that are currently operational. 

“We tried to service every kind that we could,” said Superintendent Dr.  Michael LaSusa, “with being the least disruptive.”

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Some of the youngest grade levels from Southern Boulevard School have been temporarily relocated to Chatham High School.  They had their first day in the high school on Monday and there were some concerns from the public and the school board about the massive age difference in the student population. All were assured that the elementary students and the high school students would have no interaction at all during their time in school.

Additionally, all of the relocated elementary students will be operating on a delayed opening schedule to help ease traffic at the schools and scheduling issues. The Southern Boulevard students even have a designated set of bathrooms and areas that will be utilized specifically for them, away from the older students.   

The high school was selected as a place to house the young students because of its size.

The other topic of discussion on the meeting’s agenda was also related to the Southern Boulevard Elementary School.  The district is considering renting generators to get Southern Boulevard School back up and running.  A contracted team of electricians who will most likely be installing the generators spoke at the meeting.

According to the contractors, the two needed generators will run for 15 hours (almost two full school days) when filled and will run on 300 gallons of diesel fuel, which is easier to obtain then regular gasoline.  They can be turned off at the end of the day to conserve fuel if necessary.  The schools custodial staff will be the only personnel who are able to operate the generators and there will be fencing in place surrounding the machines, blocking them from the children. The generators will also be placed on a side of the building where the children do not have direct access.  

Providing that the project has no problems or glitches (or storms) the children could be back at Southern Boulevard School as soon as Thursday on their regular schedule. 

Some of the public comment from the meeting did question what days the students would be using to make up for the missing days. LaSusa and the board members said they believe Governor Chris Christie has upheld the normal, 180 days of classes law to complete a school year, for all districts in New Jersey.  LaSusua mentioned that the students are already getting days back just this week alone on Thursday and Friday, as the annual Teacher’s Convention in Atlantic City has been cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.

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