Hurricane Sandy Closes East Coast Campuses

John Ferrara, Sports Editor

Thousands of community college students struggle to complete their school semesters after Hurricane Sandy rocked the coast of New Jersey and New York on Oct. 29, shutting down many schools for days as cities were left flooded and without power.

“Nineteen hundred of our seventyfive hundred students live on one of the Barrier Islands and a number of them were displaced from their homes,” said Kathy Corbalis, Executive Director of College Relations at Atlantic Cape Community College in Atlantic City, N.J.

Corbalis says that ACCC is more concerned with the welfare of its students than with the damaged facilities.

Atlantic Cape is offering the most affected students free amenities like bus passes and textbooks to help them complete their academic semester by means of $200 grants generated from a relief fund set up through its website.

The Press of Atlantic City reports that Stockton College of Galloway, N.J. is creating incentives for students to get back in the classroom by providing reduced housing at $20 per night for the remainder of the semester. The college’s unions have also raised more than $9,000 for employees affected by the storm.

Despite major flooding to the first floor, College of Staten Island was able to recover quickly.

“Of the New York community colleges, we were hit the worst because we’re in downtown Manhattan … this is our first day back in service and it’s going rather well,” said Barry Rosen, Executive Director of Public Affairs.

CSI graduate student, Marybeth Malendez-Perez, found local fame after she was featured on “Anderson Cooper 360” for setting up a major distribution center to feed hungry storm survivors despite suffering from blindness.

“I want to tell you that maybe God blessed me that I can’t see the visuals, because it hurts,” Malendez-Perez said in an interview with Anderson Cooper.

According to Rosen, CSI students are allowed to drop their classes without penalty for the remainder of the semester and the school has also offered stress counseling.

Ocean County College in Toms River, N.J. was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and resumed school activities on Monday, two weeks after the disaster.

“Many of our staff and students who live on the Barrier Island or near the Barnegat Bay have lost everything,” said Jan Kirsten, Executive Director of College Relations.

“Some have yet to be allowed back on the island to assess the damages. The best estimate for those whose homes are still standing, is six to nine months of rehabbing before they are able to return.”

After New York, New Jersey and Connecticut declared a state of emergency, Glendale College reflected on its own procedures to better prepare for disaster.

On Nov. 6, Glendale College Police Chief Gary Montecuollo addressed the board of trustees with a PowerPoint presentation of Glendale’s current disaster policies, which were originally drawn up by former chief Steven P. Wagg and a privately owned consulting group.

“The idea of this particular plan, whether large or small scale can be used to monitor certain emergencies … and it’s a very cost-effective system, said Montecuollo.

The system is composed of a series of checklists designed to make tasks easy for those in charge.

Montecuollo and the new Director of Facilities and Construction, Nelson Oliveira, are currently working together to compile a telephone roster of emergency contacts, including local hospitals and merchants who have reached a memorandum of understanding with the college.

These businesses will donate services or supplies to Glendale College when called upon in an emergency situation.

During spring break of 2012, GCC experienced a major power outage, rendering the college police department’s emergency broadcast system useless. This problem was addressed by Montecuollo and the board of trustees, who worked together to find a donor for a mobile generator to power the police department during a blackout.

Walt Disney Co. agreed to donate the money needed for a generator with what board of trustees member Anthony Tartaglia called “a rather large check.”

“I’m happy to report we will be receiving the check from Disney very soon,” said Montecuollo.

On the Glendale College Police Department website there is also a digital copy of the “Emergency Procedures Guide,” which is a pamphlet on surviving a variety of disasters, from nuclear explosions to snake bites.

Although most of the emergency directions are simplified to taking cover and calling the police, information on what to do during common California disasters like earthquakes and fires are more detailed and may provide valuable information in a life-threatening situation.

Anyone interested in receiving more information on the “Emergency Procedures Guide” should call the GCC police at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5925 or (818) 409-5925.