September 11, 2013 | 1215 views
Back to school
Ten months after Sandy, West School reopens
On Monday morning, kids across Long Beach boarded buses for their first day of school. But for West School students and parents, the welcome-back greeting meant something more.
“She was all smiles this morning coming back,” Gloria McCavera said of her daughter, a third-grader. “Since last year, [the kids] have been asking for it. Everybody is excited and overjoyed and just can’t wait to start the year.”
West School reopened on Monday for the first time since Hurricane Sandy. It was one of the hardest-hit buildings in the district, its first floor flooded by three to four feet of water. Afterward the entire floor was gutted, and all systems that were housed there were ripped out and replaced. The total cost of repairs was estimated at $7.2 million.
When students returned to school two weeks after the storm, West School students were initially moved to East School, and then, in the first week of January, relocated to Lindell.
On Monday, for the first time in 10 months, students ran through the halls, greeting friends and checking out the improvements to their school — completely redone floors and ceilings, according to Superintendent David Weiss. The gym has a new faux wood floor, and new bleachers. All of the heating systems were moved to the ceiling, and outlets were raised. The first-floor classrooms have been redone as well, and at first were almost unrecognizable to teachers.
“I feel like it’s the first year all over again,” said first-grade teacher Nicole McGahn.
“A lot of the kindergartners that are now first-graders were only in the building for the first couple of weeks, so this is new for everybody,” said Rhonda Healy, a first-grade teaching assistant.
In June the school opened briefly for the fifth-grade moving-up ceremony. The district prioritized renovating the gym and the hallway leading to it in order to make the ceremony possible, because, Weiss said, it was important to give the students a feeling of “moving forward.” The theme of the ceremony was “There’s no place like home.”
In keeping with that idea, on Monday a “yellow brick road” was painted outside one entrance of the school, and a rainbow balloon arch was stretched across another. Teachers also sported “ruby red slippers.”