“Homecoming” usually conjures images of colorful parade floats and hard-fought football games, but for the students, faculty and staff of East Rockaway and Lawrence high schools, the term has a more basic meaning: the return to their respective school buildings after months of repair following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Lawrence High School, which closed on Jan. 15, reopened on April 3, and East Rockaway High, which has been closed since the storm, is scheduled to reopen on Monday.
East Rockaway High School senior Billy Humes promises to kiss the floor when he returns to school next Monday. His classmate Molly Bastow, the senior class president and a volleyball player, says she misses the smell of the gym. Bitsy Kuehn says she has waved and cried when she has passed the school for the past sixth months.
“Other than that, I really don’t know how I’m going to feel,” said Humes. “I missed the comfort of being in my own school. It’s been a long time.”
Humes, Bastow and Kuehn, along with more than 600 of their junior and senior high school classmates, will be returning to East Rockaway High after being displaced for almost six months because of the extensive damage to their school.
The junior/senior high school building, on Ocean Avenue, was hit hard on Oct. 29. Just yards from Mill River, it sustained damage to its electrical system, boiler, both gymnasiums, the band and music rooms and the tech building, and the auditorium was all but destroyed. A sinkhole opened up at the rear of the school, damaging an electrical transformer.
Administrators scrambled to find temporary housing for students, and most of them ended up being bused to Schubert and Milburn elementary schools in Baldwin, both of which had sat empty. “It was better than nothing,” said Bastow. “All of us tried to look on the bright side, but in the end it was hard.”