Story and Photos by Rosemary Leonetti/Syntax
All around the Long Beach School District on Monday, classes began with much celebration, welcoming students back to another year of learning adventures. But perhaps the most joyous first-day celebration took place at West School, which had been closed ever since Hurricane Sandy struck.
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Dressed in ruby slippers and adorning every classroom door with a big yellow ribbon, West School Principal Sandra Schneider and her entire staff pulled out all the stops to welcome students back for a first day of school like no other.
West School PTA parents did their part by painting a yellow brick road on the sidewalk of the north entrance to the school and embellishing the south entrance with a rainbow-colored arch of balloons.
After being displaced from their beloved school ever since Sandy wreaked her havoc, students and staff have been on a yearlong odyssey to arrive at this moment. The storm destroyed the entire first floor of their building, forcing them to attend classes crowded together — first with students from East School and then traveling to share space at Lindell School — all during a time when many were also displaced from their own homes.
So all at West were more than willing to click their heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home!”
Meanwhile, across town a new chapter unfolded for the prekindergarten program, as the new Pre-Kindergarten Center at Lido School opened its doors to welcome Long Beach’s youngest learners and their parents during an open house on the first day of school.After Sandy struck, the prekindergarten program, which was then located on the high school campus on Blackheath Road, set up temporary quarters at the Lindell cafeteria before moving to another temporary home at East School. So it was equally gratifying for Pre-K students and staff to settle down in their new permanent home at Lido School at the start of the new school year.