It was the first day of school all over again for hundreds of excited students in two elementary schools in Oceanside and Kings Park, who returned Wednesday to their home buildings after being temporarily displaced by superstorm Sandy.
Students and staff were back in the Fulton Avenue School No. 8 in Oceanside after the building was severely damaged from 4 inches of floodwaters. In Sandy's wake, the 435 students were housed more than a mile away at Oceanside High School Castleton No. 6.
"I'm finally back," said sixth-grader Mikayla Gross, 11, whose family is living with her grandparents in Long Beach until their home, flooded by 2 feet of water, is completely restored in June. "Some normalcy is coming back because being at school is like being at home. . . . Walking down the hallways helps me forget what happened."
The K-6 school's walls were repainted, tile flooring was replaced, and damaged items were removed and replaced. Some evidence of Sandy remained: Outside the school a trailer with a temporary boiler provided heat to the building.
"I'm really surprised to see these new floors," said sixth-grader Jack Candiotti, 11, who is living with his family in their home while repairs are made to fix damage done by 4 feet of water. "It looks like a new school."
A story of resilience
Cleanup, repairs and replacement of damaged items will cost the school district more than $5 million, but insurance and FEMA reimbursements are expected to cover the costs, school district spokeswoman Donna Kraus said.
"This could be a story about devastation, but it is the reverse," school principal Laurie Welch-Storch said as she walked down a hallway lined with boxes of school supplies. "It is a story about perseverance and resilience."
At Park View Elementary School in Kings Park, a giant red bow on a wall near the entrance greeted students. The K-3 school was closed after Sandy blew off the top layer of its roof, causing water damage inside.
"It's given us a chance to kind of start over," school principal Jeanne Devine said. "Everybody has been so positive -- from the parents, to the teachers, to the children. . . . That kind of can-do attitude has really allowed this project to be completed in a timely manner."
The roof was replaced along with the second-floor ceiling, floor tiles and alarm system. The school also was repainted on the inside, and work crews replaced most electrical fixtures on the second floor and ceiling tiles in the cafeteria, first-floor hallways and main office. A dozen computers in the library were replaced.
Glad to be back
The total cost of the damage was about $2.7 million, most of which insurance covered, but the district expects FEMA will reimburse the $5,000 deductible, said Kings Park superintendent Susan Agruso.
While the work was being completed, Park View's roughly 500 students were split between two buildings. Kindergarten, first- and second-grade students were sent to San Remo, a former elementary school on Lawrence Road being used as an administration building and partially rented by a child-care center. Third-grade students attended Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School on Old Dock Road.
Christy Anasa, 7, said she was excited to be back in her second-grade classroom.
"The floors were different. I liked my room. . . . The Smartboard was back," she said.
"Kids are resilient," said Christy's mother, Joann Anasa. "It's amazing what they can handle. It's a lesson for adults, actually."