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East Rockaway school, closed by Sandy damage, to reopen

East Rockaway High School, which suffered $10 million

East Rockaway High School, which suffered $10 million in damage from 5 feet of water dumped by superstorm Sandy, will finally reopen almost 6 months later. (April 25, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School will welcome back students on Monday, exactly six months after superstorm Sandy shuttered the building.

The school suffered $10 million in damage from the storm, which flooded the building with 5 feet of water, ruining its gymnasium, locker rooms and library. Students have been attending classes at two Baldwin schools that had been closed.

Monday's return will be an emotional day for students, especially seniors, who will spend their final few weeks of high school back in the renovated building, said Superintendent Roseanne Melucci.

"It was very traumatic," Melucci said. "Our objective was, as quickly as possible, to get the students back into an instructional environment and repair the building."

The district has paid for some of the repairs with insurance and hopes to cover the rest with Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars, Melucci said. Anything not covered by FEMA would be paid through a bond anticipation note, she said.

The closure of the high school, and damage suffered at Rhame Avenue Elementary School, forced the district to shuffle most of its 1,300 students.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students have been attending the former Milburn Elementary School in Baldwin, while ninth- through 12th-graders have attended the former Shubert Elementary School in Baldwin, Melucci said. Both schools were rented by East Rockaway.

Rhame Avenue Elementary was closed until mid-December due to flooding damage. During rebuilding students were doubled up at Centre Avenue Elementary School, Melucci said.

Staff renamed the combined Centre and Rhame Avenue schools "the CARE school," Melucci said.

"I'm really proud of our students, our staff, for the way they have managed this really difficult situation," Melucci said.

The high school's large gym and its kitchen will not be ready to reopen Monday, but the school is "going to work around that," Melucci said.

School equipment will be moved from the Baldwin schools to the high school over the weekend, Melucci said. Monday's reopening will be a delayed day, with the school opening at 10 a.m., she said.

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