Elementary school ravaged by Sandy finally re-opens

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UNION BEACH, New Jersey (PIX11) — It’s back to class in their own school since super storm Sandy for some students in Union Beach, New Jersey.

Union Beach Memorial opened it’s doors again Monday for the first time since Sandy slammed the area filling their building with floodwater.  Now more than 700 Pre-K through 8th grade students who had been displaced and traveling by bus to other schools are back at their own desks.

“Today is a big day,” said Superintendent Joseph Annibale. “We’ve said the word normalcy for so long and the common theme is when are we gonna get back to normalcy and today those words are realized.”

Union Beach was hit hard by Sandy.  Nearly 200 homes were destroyed and many others still are uninhabitable.

The school had 3 feet of water inside  forcing workers to rip out sheet rock and make other repairs.  Teachers described horrible conditions in classrooms. Nicole Gilkerson is a first year teacher.

“I actually came in the day after and all my things that were on the perimeter were moved over to the center. Things that weren’t mine floated in.” she added ” It was a mess but we are back and I’m happy.”

Union Beach is a small shore town of 6800. So students had to go to nearby towns for classes while the building was being repaired.  They are glad to be back.

Brendon told PIX11, “Being home and getting to graduate from my own school is fun”  He told us he plans to go to the 8th grade dance in a couple of weeks. His mom Sharon says all of this wasn’t easy. It was good for him to see what a high school was like, but it was tough driving him everyday so we are glad they are back.”

After sandy donations poured in from around the state and country including 200 musical instruments, 30,000 books and a $20,000 gift card for Staples from the Governor’s office.

Fidelity investments and the organization Jersey Cares  pitched in to help fix up the school.  They wanted to make it better than it was before and it looks like they succeeded.

The students will finish out the rest of the school year which ends June 27th.