By Asmita Saha and Marco Valle
Heavy rainfall and flooding led to New Hyde Park Memorial High School becoming a shelter for 81 elderly residents from an Elmont Senior Living Community over Homecoming weekend. The senior citizens were transported away from flooding in the basement of their facility due to loss of power and heating. Using Nassau Inter-County Express buses from Elmont, they arrived at NHP Memorial on September 29.
“New Hyde Park Memorial High School is one location of several dozen [shelters] across Long Island, that we have pre-identified and have stored shelter equipment nearby to be able to quickly mobilize in an emergency,” Desiree Ramos Reiner, the External Affairs Officer of the American Red Cross Greater New York Region said in an email interview.
Source by Mary Kay Mannle
The American Red Cross stores equipment adjacent to the faculty parking lot.
Elderly citizens used the gym as shelter. New Hyde Park Memorial already has stored cots, blankets, toiletries, meals, and water as part of their efforts with the Red Cross. Stored in a white crate by the parking lot, Memorial was chosen as a shelter location because of existing Red Cross materials, which were set up by Red Cross Volunteers.
New Hyde Park Memorial administration and Sewanhaka Central High District administration coordinated efforts to ensure that residents were fully accommodated. By Monday evening, all of the remaining senior citizens were placed in a hotel for their comfort. The last time the school served as an evacuation site was twelve years ago, after Hurricane Sandy.
“When we learned from local government of the evacuation of residents, we quickly identified New Hyde Park Memorial Shelter as a location that could support not just the residents of one evacuated building, but also any residents on Long Island who needed a safe place to stay due to the storm and flooding,” Reiner said.
Within NHP, the section of the hallway containing entrances to the gym and locker rooms was closed off. Security guards were placed at each end of the hallway to prevent any interactions between students and senior residents. Both Nassau County Police and Sheriffs were present for protection for each of the two groups.
“We were going through the process of making sure that there was a separation for the privacy of these seniors because they were displaced. They didn't have a home and they wanted privacy too. It was for their privacy as well as the interaction with students,” principal Dr. Faccio said.
“Athletic contests were also affected... Yet these small changes didn't shake the adaptability of NHP's student body."
Despite taking place over homecoming weekend, the sheltering did not affect any of the celebrations. The parade and game happened without any issues, despite concerns about the weather.
“Luckily it didn't affect homecoming celebrations as much as we thought it would. The weather was the biggest factor. But the weather was great. Homecoming worked out really well,” Dr. Faccio said.
Students were able to adapt with the change. Yet, there were still some strains on their daily routine.
“I think that this should not have happened at our school, because it disrupted physical education classes and getting to and from classes,” sophomore Mason Berardelli said.
“The seventh graders didn’t know the dead hallway connected the two staircases. So when you told them to go to the auditorium, and they were near room 112, they didn’t know to go up the stairs, down the dead hallway, and back downstairs. That was a new learning experience for them; they just had to get used to it, and they did it,” Dr. Faccio said.
Athletic contests were also affected, shifting the home games to away games. Yet these small changes didn’t shake the adaptability of NHP’s student body.
“I think the sheltering was an honorable cause and was well worth any inconvenience it may have caused our school,” junior Adved Sharma said.
“I'm always so proud of the students in New Hyde Park for how they handle different situations. And this is a great example because people were so used to doing things by memory and by routine that when they came down that hallway, they saw what was going on and then they went and they changed… It was amazing how well it worked,” Dr. Faccio said.
The use of New Hyde Park Memorial as a Red Cross shelter had many effects, some noticed more by the student body than others. This has made some of the student body realize that New Hyde Park Memorial may not be a suitable site for sheltering, while others believe it is.