HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The upcoming start of school is going to be a scramble for one Long Island school district.
A lightning strike last week caused extensive damage and now there’s news they will not open a building in time.
On the roof of the Prospect School in Hempstead, one can see patched fire damage, but inside the water damage is so extensive, officials told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Tuesday that the building will not be ready for the start of the school and they don’t know how long the building will be uninhabitable.
- WATCH ONLINE: What Went Wrong In Hempstead’s Schools And Can It Be Fixed? Click For Documentary Page
“One thing we know for sure, we are not going to be able to occupy this building on Sept. 5 for our students, so our focus has shifted to so now where?” Hempstead School District Acting Superintendent Regina Armstrong said.
Now where? And how will the district pay for relocating nearly 600 children? Earlene Hooper, the deputy speaker of the State Assembly, said she has earmarked state funds to help pay for temporary housing for the building’s students — all kindergarteners and pre-K.
“I’m allowed and I have allocated $1 million to the Hempstead School District,” Hooper said. “This is a grant. It has no strings attached.”
Still, parents like 4-year-old Shaila’s mom said they’re worried where she will be sent.
“(It’s a problem) because if they find another place maybe it’s too far, in another town,” the mother said.
But local local organizations are stepping up to help. The Academy Charter School in Hempstead is offering to make room for as many children as it can.
“An act of God. We may have a separate number of kids we service, but we want to make sure we open our arms to the families,” Academy Charter School spokesman Robert Stewart said.
Help can also be expected from the Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.
“That is the responsible thing to do for people who love this community,” The Rev. Malcolm Byrd said.
The district has fire insurance, but it has not yet been determined how much will be reimbursed.
“The Nassau County BOCES continues to work with the District and the District’s Distinguished Educator to ensure all students displaced by the fire are educated in a safe environment. No final decisions have been made yet,” state Department of Education Spokesman Jonathan Burman said in a statement sent to CBS2 on Tuesday.
The lightning strike that sparked last week’s fire damaged classrooms. It’s yet another hurdle for a school district embroiled in a costly legal battle over the fate of its suspended superintendent, and trying to pull its way out of, at times, a 37 percent graduation rate, which is one of the lowest in the nation.
Wave been following the dramatic story of the turmoil in the Hempstead School District all year. You can watch our documentary “37%” in its entirety here, and on CBS2. It will air on Sunday over Labor Day weekend.