Waterbury Public Schools closed until Wednesday - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Waterbury Public Schools closed until Wednesday

© The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account. © The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account.
© The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account. © The following photo is from Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary's Twitter account.

Waterbury Public Schools will be closed Friday even after people were recruited to clear away snow at the school buildings and parking lots in the city.

"Much progress has been made, but continued snow cleanup is necessary to ensure that school bus stops and pedestrian routes are safer before students begin traveling to school," city officials said in a statement Thursday.

There were 32 schools in the city, and none of them had been touched as of Tuesday morning.

"I'm going out of my mind," said parent Elizabeth Gomes. "The kids are getting stir crazy."

So Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary recruited local teens and adults through social media to help shovel out the city's schools Tuesday. And hundreds, including more than 300 teenagers called the "youth brigade," showed up to assist with the cleanup effort.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of students and adults showed to help shovel out the schools. 

"Unfortunately because of the volume of the snow, a lot of the sidewalks are still not open," O'Leary said. "They may not be open for quite a while, and the mounds and visibility are deteriorated."

The cost of hiring the hundreds of people to cleanup the snow is expected to cost about $40,000.

"The schools are all done, and had the kids not been employed, we had 600 by the way, these guys [Department of Public Works crews] would have been working all weekend on overtime and holiday pay," O'Leary said. "We put the kids to work and saved money as well.

The mayor said he already asked Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal aid to pay for the student shovelers. O'Leary said he also estimated that, before Saturday, the city had about $1 million in their snow budget and now, he believes it's safe to say its probably almost all gone.

O'Leary said the city would pay minimum wage to people of all ages (older than 14), but he's hoped to get a lot of students that don't have school and have nothing to do. The money to pay everyone that showed up will come from the Waterbury Police Activity League, according to city officials.

After the success of the shoveling program, the mayor said he hopes to use more high school students on other projects in the city.

On Thursday night, Department of Public Works crews were sent home by the mayor because with schools closed, workers will have five days to complete cleanups at the schools and in Waterbury.

However, one parents told Eyewitness News enough is enough.

"It's dangerous, we credit them for the precaution," Gomes said. "But, figure something out, we have to get the kids to school."

City leaders are also trying to figure out places to put the snow and have received a waiver from Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection to put it in the Naugatuck River.

"There is an emergency and I empathize with city leaders. They are faced with an issue on where to put this snow," The Naugatuck River Revival Group said in a statement Tuesday. "The snow is pretty pure but there are still pollutants."

Classes will resume on Wednesday, following a holiday break.

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