Letter to Editor: South Orangetown Schools Status

South Orangetown School District Superintendent Dr. Ken Mitchell sent out the following letter Thursday, Nov. 1

I am writing to provide an update of the post-storm status of the South Orangetown Central School District. 

The vast majority of our community has been without power for the last few days. It is hoped that most of you have weathered the storm without harm, damage to your property, or too much inconvenience.  Sadly, too many members of the community, especially those in Piermont, have had to endure tremendous hardship. 

Due to the loss of communication, it has been difficult to get out messages.  The following should provide you with a status report and possible plans for the next few days:

  • As of 8:00 this morning, power has been restored to CLE, SOMS, and TZHS.  Facilities are closed to all but essential staff.
  • The significant and widespread power outages in the local region and beyond are expected to continue for several days.  We have been meeting with local officials and have attended O&R briefings. Even with restoration to the three schools and adjoining neighborhoods, we are not assured that all schools will come on by Monday.  O&R crews, supplemented by crews from other states, are working around the clock to restore power.  (We may think that “we” are a priority, but many other organizations make the same claim.)
  • There remain numerous safety issues: downed power lines, trees on power lines, blocked roads, and intersections without traffic lights.  So, even if we were to open all schools, we have to consider all of these hazards.

(Special Note - PIERMONT is closed to trick or treaters on Saturday. There is a 6:00 p.m. curfew.  There are "boil water" alerts for specific streets.)

  • There remain logistical issues.  Buses need fuel.  Fuel is limited.  As power is restored, there will be less reliance on gas-powered generators and more filling stations will open.  However, currently there is a question of whether or not our transportation fleets can be fueled.  Buses will also have difficulty navigating routes with significant road closures.  (There is also the matter of replenishing food as we have had to dispose of food that was lost when some refrigeration systems lost power.)
  • Our priorities at this point are simple and probably obvious:

#1 – Restore power and re-establish communications  (As of 10:00 a.m. today, Orangetown has 11,000 outages of 13,000 O&R customers.);

#2 - Ensure that it is safe to transport students;

#3 – Establish normalcy for our students, staff, and families via resumed instruction ASAP.  This last priority will require patience and flexibility.  If we are unable to use all our facilities, we may have to be creative and adapt as much as possible to the situation.  (Information about an SAT make-up will be posted on the high school website.)

That said, our goal is to open by Monday, but a lot of work has to be done to make this happen.  We will take this one day at a time. (We have several meetings over the weekend from which we will gather sufficient information to make a plan by Sunday.)

#4 – I have received messages about make-up days.  This is the lowest priority.  We have gone through a natural catastrophe and continue to endure the aftermath – some much more than others.  We will explore issues of days and schedules once we have resumed some modicum of normalcy. 

Again, I hope that the children, families, and residents of the South Orangetown CSD have escaped any serious impact.  Hang in there and stay tuned for further updates. 


Ken Mitchell, Superintendent of Schools


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