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New York City public schools were not adequately prepared for floods

David Shankbone | Wikimedia Commons

New York City was flooded by hurricane-level rainfall on Sept. 29. Half of the city’s subway lines were forced to shut down, all while schools were still in session. New York City Mayor Eric Adams failed to consider the severity of the rain and flooding in the city, leading to a poorly-handled disaster.

Adams provided a briefing earlier that day regarding the heavy rain and flooding. 

“If you are at work or school, shelter in place for now,” Adams said, echoing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state of emergency declaration.

Schools must lock all exits during a shelter-in-place order, which does not allow anyone in or out of the building. This prevents emergencies outside of the building like bad weather. However, a quicker and more thoughtful response would have benefited schools.

NYC Public Schools shared a post on X, formerly Twitter, stating that the shelter-in-place protocol was in place. However, no official notice was ever communicated to school principals.

The first official communication to school principals about the order came in an email around 2 p.m., notifying them that the order had been lifted, according to Chalkbeat.

Due to this miscommunication, schools were still determining what protocol to follow during the heavy rain. Additionally, many schools did not enforce the shelter-in-place order because they weren’t informed about it.

Adams has been criticized for not only the lack of communication but also for ordering a shelter-in-place in schools. He should have closed schools or called for early dismissal before the weather worsened.

Schools were dealing with the chaos caused by the flooding and heavy rain. They had to help keep kids dry while communicating with parents about pickup and figuring out alternative exits for dismissal.

Many parents came into schools to pick up their kids early to avoid even heavier rain later in the day. If a shelter-in-place order had been enforced, parents would not have been able to do so, making the situation even worse.

The email that notified schools of the order being lifted, also suggested that schools should make sure students and staff were familiar with alternate evacuation routes and ensure students had a way to get home given disruptions to public transit.Schools had very little time to prepare as the email arrived in principals’ inboxes less than an hour before dismissal.

Bronx administrator Anna Nelson tells Chalkbeat, “It is clear to me that we will have more flood issues like this in the future and the DOE doesn’t have any flood plans in place,” Bronx administrator Anna Nelson told Chalkbeat.

Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Janno Lieber discussed flood issues in a news conference.

“We keep talking about the fact that the system was designed long ago for a rainfall at the rate of 1.75 inches per hour and we are consistently getting more than that, so we need additional outflow,” Lieber said.

NYC is not equipped to handle such heavy rainfall. The city’s poor infrastructure is prone to flooding in many areas, especially the subway stations that many students and residents rely on. As a result, many were left stranded and forced to find alternative ways of getting home.

The lack of preparation and planning from the city is very concerning. The Adams administration should work alongside the city’s education department to ensure that adequate protocols and communication channels are in place for future situations.

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Sonia Kalo
Sonia Kalo, News Editor
Sonia Kalo is the News Editor of The Ticker
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