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Queens parents will now be able to receive information about school emergencies as they unfold thanks to the expansion of an alert system, city officials announced at JHS 217 in Briarwood last week.
State legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) passed last spring requiring the city Department of Education to send timely messages about school emergencies to parents and other interested individuals who wanted the information.
City officials in response to the bill expanded the Notify NYC system to include public schools.
Individuals may now sign up with the Notify NYC system to receive text or Twitter messages, e-mails or phone calls about emergencies.
“This means parents now can be practically anywhere and receive information about the people most important to them: their kids,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at JHS 217 last Thursday.
Lancman and Addabbo sponsored the legislation after parents of students at the three schools of the Glen Oaks Campus panicked in 2007 when their children did not arrive home after a threatening letter forced PS 20, PS 266 and the Queens High School of Teaching into lockdown.
“Information in those kinds of situations is critical,” Lancman said.
Addabbo said the H1N1 swine flu outbreak last year, first at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows and later at schools throughout the city, highlighted the importance of releasing information to parents.
“The safety benefits we get are far greater than any cost,” Addabbo said.
Other city officials attended the press event at JHS 217 in Briarwood, including Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno and Councilmen Mark Weprin (D-Hollis) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).
Bruno said he encouraged all parents to sign up for the notification system. Notify NYC currently has 27,000 enrollees and the system that was launched in May 2009 allows residents in all five boroughs to register multiple e-mail addresses, text message accounts and phone numbers to receive advisories about events in up to five ZIP codes.
Since the program began, the city has sent out 243 messages about 184 incidents throughout the city.
“We had 400 people sign up last night, probably because they were thinking of Haiti,” Bruno said.
JHS 217 students at the event asked several questions of Bloomberg and eighth-grade pupil Maryam Sekhery asked the mayor what he planned to do to address overcrowded classrooms.
“Everybody would like smaller class sizes,” Bloomberg said. “But because of the economic crisis there’s not much likelihood of us reducing class size.”
Sekhery said she was disappointed with the mayor’s response.
“In my ESL class, there are maybe 35 or 36 students,” she said. “Every day more and more are coming in, and the teachers don’t know where to put them. I’d like to see the number of students go down to about 30.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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