YONKERS, NY -- Nearly 600 children who had to evacuate from their school last Monday went back to class on Thursday at alternative schools. It was the best solution that the school district said it could find while it cleans up the black mold outbreak that forced the evacuation. Still, however, the backup plan was not without problems, and a return date to the evacuated school is elusive.
The evacuated school is P.S. 15, in the northern part of this Westchester County city. Its 576 students have now been sent to two other schools. Pre-K through fourth graders are at Robert C. Dodson Elementary.
On Thursday, third grader Ava Telyczka, said that the alternative school was good for her because, at least, she was in a classroom.
"Some kids were in the gym," she told PIX11 News.
She and her mother pointed out that the Dodson School was not equipped to handle the 300 or so additional students.
"It wasn't a classroom," her mother, Kathy Telyczka, said about where daughter spent the day. "It was the band room."
"It's just stressful," said another parent, Jennifer Gomez, whose son Alexander is in kindergarten.
That stress could have been avoided, some parents said.
"We kind of knew about the black mold before school ended last year," said Ms. Telyczka.
She and other parents criticized the school administration, as well as the school district, for not looking into the problem sooner.
Meanwhile, the fifth through eighth grade students at P.S. 15 were sent to St. Bartholomew's School, on Saw Mill River Road. It's a decommissioned Catholic school that the district is renting temporarily.
It provided an alternative favored by some parents, who'd been concerned with the district's original plan to send P.S. 15's older students to Roosevelt High School.
Still, St. Bartholomew had problems, as some parents and students pointed out.
"Today, all we did was color," said fifth grader Julia Sadowski, adding that her class also did a creative writing exercise.
The reason for a lack of any other academic work, she said, was that so many of the students' supplies are still at their home school. She and her mother told PIX11 News that textbooks were in short supply, among other resources.
"We had nothing to do," Sadowski said.
In response to complaints, the schools superintendent, Edwin Quezada, said that he was sympathetic.
"I feel for our parents, I feel for our students, I feel for our teachers," he said. "This is a difficult experience."
As for reopening P.S. 15, he said that remediation efforts are well under way, and could result in students returning before the end of next week, in a best case scenario.
"If the roof needs to be replaced, we need the engineers and consultants to give us the best estimates" as to when the school can reopen," Quezada said.
Parents told PIX11 News that they were hoping for the best, but were well aware of a worst-case scenario for which they were also preparing.
"We were told it could be at least three months," Ms. Telyczka said.