It took a little more than three heel clicks, but after 233 days, West School students, teachers and parents finally returned to the school for the fifth-grade promotion ceremony.
The ceremony on Tuesday morning was themed “there’s no places like home,” an homage to the long-awaited homecoming to the damaged school. Fifty-five students were honored at the ceremony. Students sang songs, teachers presented them with awards and diplomas and parents watched a slide show of pictures detailing the year’s activities.
During Hurricane Sandy, West was one of the hardest hit buildings in the district. It took on three to four feet of water in the first floor of the building. The whole first floor was gutted, and all systems that were housed on the first floor were ripped out and replaced. The total cost of repairs to the school was estimated at $7.2 million.
When students returned to school, two weeks after the storm, West School students were initially placed in East School, but were later moved to Lindell during the first week of January.
Principal Sandra Schneider, who has been principal of West School for 17 years, said that finding out her school was destroyed was “upsetting,” but that from the start she had this day in mind.
“Once they told me that we couldn’t get back in the building, I said well is there any way that we can start the rebuild so that we do the gym first so we can [have graduation]?” she said.
Schools Superintendent David Weiss said that the district prioritized renovating the gym and the hallway leading to it, the bare bones it needed to make this ceremony happen.
“This was the goal early on, to have moving up at West School for the fifth-grade kids,” said Schools Superintendent David Weiss. “It was very important for us to get the kids a sense of moving forward.”
The remainder of the construction at the school will be finished by the end of August, Weiss said.
Teachers and parents, who have not stepped foot in the building since Hurricane Sandy, said the ceremony was “overwhelming.”