The city of Long Beach took the brunt of Hurricane Sandy’s force here on Long Island. One of her victims was the West Elementary school. The school has been closed for the last year when the superstorm hit and flooded the building. With this upcoming school year underway, West Elementary is finally opening up its doors again.
On the first day of classes Monday, teachers and students shuffled into the Wizard of Oz themed building. Staff wore ruby red slippers, the sidewalk leading to the school was painted yellow, and an assortment of bright colored balloons flew over the entrances. The theme was to let students know there’s no place like home, and after a year of recovery, they finally made it back.
“It’s been a long haul getting us back into school in Long Beach and we’re very excited that West School is open and we’re ready for kindergarten,” a mother of a student, Nicole Ciciari, told CBS News.
Parents and teachers overcame a lot to get to where they are now. Parents were seen fighting back tears and teachers were happy to finally get back to teaching the 350 students between kindergarten and fifth grade they considered family.
“I missed my classroom, I missed just being with my West School family and it was a tough year but we did it,” first grade teacher Nicole McGann told CBS. “It was a tough year but kids are resilient and the families were great and the teachers were great and we all stuck together, we pulled through together.”
The school was met with an insurmountable amount of damage when the ocean and bay met and flooded out the school. The next 11 months were a slow recovery process and the opening of West Elementary has been one of the bright spots in the city of Long Beach. Principal Sandy Schneider pushed for the school’s restoration. In June, for the fifth grade moving up ceremony, while the building was still damaged from the storm, Schneider made sure the students graduated on their own turf. Cleaning and construction crews took the ravaged gym and made it so that the kids graduated from the school they grew up in. The theme for that day was also, there’s no place like home.