LEWISBORO, N.Y. – In a report issued to the Katonah-Lewisboro Board of Education, Superintendent Paul Kreutzer said the biggest lesson learned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter snowstorm is that the district needs to improve its methods of communication.
“Our Achilles' heel is communications,” he told the board. “We need a proactive approach. We just can’t [have our communication system] go out.”
Kreutzer noted that the budget approved last year contained funds to purchase an upgraded communication system for the district’s bus fleet, but approval by the Federal Communications Commission and cell tower construction has slowed down the project.
“It should be ready by next April, but I wish we could have had it for the nor’easter,” he said. “With the new system we will know right where the buses are via the GPS, and we’ll know how fast they’re going.”
Kreutzer said several students didn’t get home until 10 o'clock on the night of the snowstorm, and he apologized to the parents for that.
As for the hurricane, Kreutzer called the school’s response to the crisis a day-by-day situation.
“It was far worse than we expected,” he said. “It was a very somber Tuesday morning [after the storm hit]. The loss of life [in North Salem] was shocking. We lost neighbors.”
Kreutzer said school and town employees rose to the occasion nonetheless.
“I think we saw a lot of the best in people,” he said. “But there is still a lot of post-storm stress. We will deal with the effects long-term.”
Kreutzer reported that none of the district’s buildings suffered any major damage from the hurricane, although the roofs on the Lewisboro and Meadow Pond elementary schools suffered some cosmetic damage that does not impose any safety concerns.
As a result of the weeklong closing of the schools, classes were in session on Election Day, originally scheduled as a day off. The district has two weather reserve days built into the calendar, and both were used after Hurricane Sandy. Kreutzer said school officials are trying to figure out how to make up for the remaining time that was lost.
“Our district, as well as other districts throughout the state, is now facing the challenge of closures that exceeded the allotted weather days,” Kreutzer said in a letter to parents. “We are currently working with various agencies to address this matter. We hope to have an update in the next few weeks as to how the lost time will be made up.”