As Hurricane Irene barreled through Cranford, the storm not only flooded homes and businesses, but local schools as well. The remnants of the storm has forced school officials to delay the beginning of the school year by two days.
In a letter to Cranford parents today, Superintendent of Schools Gayle Carrick explained the damage to the facilities and announced that the first day of school for students would be Sept. 12.
“Six of our eight school facilities faired very well with little or no water getting into the schools. Two of our schools, Cranford High School and Brookside Place School, did experience water due to the flooding on that side of town. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families and residents as they work to recover from their extensive storm damage,” Carrick said.
During the storm and in its wake, Carrick said she has maintained contact with Police Chief Eric Mason, who gave her updates on the damage to the township and its schools. In addition, the Cranford Public Schools Maintenance Department has been at the school facilities since the roads became accessible Tuesday. The
superintendent explained in her letter that “Cranford High School was impacted by water from the parking area which entered the building on the first floor. The few inches of water that seeped into the building receded by the time the storm ended and we obtained access to the building.” The school district will be working with FEMA and Cranford Police until the situation is resolved.
Prior to the storm, the building was cleaned and the floors waxed in preparation for the first day of school. Due to the water damage, however, the area that flooded will again have to be cleaned and waxed by maintenance workers who are using emergency generators to power their equipment until full power is restored to the building. Carrick said, however, that all outdoor high school activities will “remain in place and on schedule.”
The most significant damage was at Brookside Place School, where water not only flooded the basement of the facility, but the first floor as well.
“Many school supplies and materials were damaged and lost to the storm,” Carrick said.
Although the water has been removed, the school building still needs to be cleaned and sanitized before students can return to classes. “An assessment of this cleaning process by an outside company specializing in such work estimates that we will need a minimum two months to get Brookside Place School back on its feet,” Carrick told parents in her letter.
In the meantime, school officials say the students who normally attend Brookside Place will be relocated to “neighboring locations” until the school is “thoroughly free of water and spotlessly clean.” The relocation plans for students are still being finalized and Carrick said parents will be notified when all of the details have been worked out.
Staff members will return to work on Sept. 8, two days later than originally planned, with students following on Sept. 12. These two days will be made up by holding school on April 13 and May 25. Officials ask that any family that has been forced to relocate due to the flood contact the school district and inform them of the new address.
“The loss of electrical power necessitates a change in school opening so that all final school clean-up and preparation can take place. Many of our teachers/staff live in town and their homes have been impacted. Many of our families have not had time to prepare for the start of school, to do the notebook and backpack shopping and to purchase those first day of school new shoes. In other cases these new purchases have been lost to the water,” Carrick said. “Hopefully this brief delay will allow everyone time to heal a bit more and will lessen the stress that our community is experiencing. This storm has
been one of, if not the worst Cranford has ever seen.”
The Cranford School District isn't the only educational facility that will have a delayed opening due to the hurricane. Union County College in Cranford is also delaying the first day of the semester until Sept. 6 "out of respect for the residents of Cranford, Rahway and other Union County municipalities still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irene," the college said in a press release today. Students will be able to continue registering for classes until Sept. 5 without paying a late fee.