"Our job is to try to help them get back on their feet."Adam Fried, Superintendent, Harrington Park
I was leaving Atlantic City at the conclusion of the annual Workshop in October and the two Board members riding with me were checking their cell phones. One said, “We may have to cancel Monday’s Board meeting because of the storm.” I remember thinking, “That’s crazy,” as the weather system was days away from the tri-state area. Little did I realize that people in the entire area would soon be glued to their television screens as the storm made its way up the east coast. We continued watching as the storm grew in size and scope until it became known as Super Storm Sandy.
I knew the event would be unprecedented when I received an e-mail from the Executive County Superintendent on Friday, October 26 that said,
“We have been directed by Trenton to contact all districts and charters and advise you to follow any directives or guidance that is provided by your local or county OEMs — in reference to the impending storm.”
Sometime in the afternoon of October 28, the New York City schools were closed in anticipation of the effects of the storm. Shortly thereafter, New Jersey schools began to close. Many would not reopen for a full week and some are still closed today – 40 days after Sandy made landfall.
As people woke on the morning of the October 30, the full scale of the devastation was unknown but people knew it was serious. Much of the state was without power and communication was nearly nonexistent. However, the indomitable human spirit drove many to begin checking on neighbors and friends. School administrators began taking stock. Many districts suffered little damage, while others suffered greatly. As is the case with the New Jersey school community, those who were fortunate began to help those who were not.
In Bergen County, the Vocational and Technical schools became shelters for the displaced residents of Moonachie and Little Ferry. The district also offered space to the Little Ferry schools so that class could resume as quickly as possible. The Wood-Ridge School District opened its doors to the Moonachie students and set them up in their own classrooms in the district’s elementary, middle and high schools as well as the town's senior center. The students are still being taught by their own teachers, and are following their own schedule just as if they were housed in Moonachie. As Wood-Ridge Superintendent Beth Ebler said. "You see a district in a time of need and the first thing you do is respond to their needs."
River Dell Regional students held fundraisers to assist districts in the shore communities. They designed and sold tee shirts to “Restore the Shore” and collected numerous items for those affected by the storm. On Thursday, December 6th, Supervisor of Grounds Fred Smith drove student advisors Maureen Kiel and Jennifer Luberto, and twenty members of the Peer Leaders program to Berkley Township to assist in the cleanup and to distribute gift cards and other donations.
The Harrington Park School District donated 300 book bags filled with classroom supplies to displaced students from Moonachie whose school was flooded after Hurricane Sandy. The Harrington Park students assembled the book bags with supplies including pencils, crayons, rulers, notebooks and glue sticks. Superintendent of Schools Adam Fried personally delivered them to the 280 Moonachie students attending schools in Wood-Ridge. Each grade level from the Kindergarten through eigth district collected supplies for the cause as a part of the district’s "Kids Helping Kids" program. The district negotiated a discounted rate from Staples and Scholastic, who also donated products to the effort.
These are just some examples of the efforts going on all over the state to help people recover from the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. These are illustrations of the human spirit that exists in all of us and is cultivated by the people who work in New Jersey’s schools. Harrington Park Superintendent Adam Fried said it best, "Our job is to try to help them get back on their feet."