Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Six months to the day after Sandy flooded the red brick building that is home to East Rockaway High School in Long Island, the mixed middle and high school has opened again.
The school underwent $10 million in renovations and repairs, and now boasts a shiny new cafeteria, two new gymnasiums and a new auditorium. All the electrical work had to be redone as well.
Toting a bag with her badminton racket, Saskia Pilorge, 15, said she has a new appreciation for her high school.
“We all used to complain about how much we hated the school and how we can’t wait to get out, but once we were displaced we were like ‘oh my god when are we getting back?’ ” she said. “Everybody took this place for granted, now everybody's happy to be back.”
Still displaced from her home, Pilorge said she’s glad to have this part of her routine back.
Filing into the school, students and teachers cheered raising their arms and high-fiving each other. Students marveled at the clean floors and new cafeteria. There were hugs all around.
“It’s so different it’s eerie,” said Corey Kaufman. The 14-year old 8th grader says, taking up a cafeteria table near the door. The number one thing he won’t miss is commuting to Shubert Elementary school five miles away.
Since the school sent the middle school students to separate schools, Monday is the first time they’re under the same roof since Sandy.
The school received donations to help rebuild the auditorium, and for their prom later this year.
Carol Hernandez works at the school, has a child there and is co-president of the PTA. Standing outside the school greeting teachers, wearing a black and orange T-shirt with the words “Rock the Return,” she said April 29 is better than the first day of school.
“This is so much better. The first day of school you haven't seen your friends for two months. This has been six months that you haven’t' been together. So this is like everybody's starting a new job together,” she said.
This is just one of many communities still regrouping after the storm. On the six-month anniversary of Sandy, WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman took a look at rebuilding in Long Beach. He found it's one of the few places where projects are underway not just to rebuild, but to rebuild better, as elected officials had promised after the storm devastated the coast.
He reported that other places are coming back in a much more haphazard way. Take a listen to the story above. And for more WNYC Sandy coverage, check out the series Life After Sandy.