Gov. Chris Christie On Hand To Welcome Back Students

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Chris Christie helped welcome kids back to class Thursday at a community hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

The Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School in Seaside Heights reopened for the first time since major flooding from the storm caused heavy damage.

“This school reopening checks another box in our return to normalcy,” Gov. Christie said.

It was an emotional homecoming for teachers and students, many of whom lost their own homes in the Oct. 29 mega-storm.

Gov. Chris Christie helps cut the ribbon at Hugh J. Boyd, Jr. Elementary School for their reopening after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.  (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Gov. Chris Christie helps cut the ribbon at Hugh J. Boyd, Jr. Elementary School  (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

“All of our kids were homeless, our entire population,” Principal Chris Raichle said. “It was tough on them getting relocated to shelters and homes.”

“The ocean and the bay met by my house,” said third grader Ann Dickerson, one of the 200 students that returned to the school.

“It’s a little bit of an emotional experience to have to see what was our home for so long be destroyed,” teacher Tiffany Aroneyo said.

Donations poured in and in the end more than $2 million in renovations restored the school, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported. Students and teachers alike said they hope the reopening marks a fresh start not only for the school, but for the community.

“It feels really good to be back at school because I missed all my teachers and all my friends,” Dickerson said.

“I think it’s awesome,” fifth grader Christopher Mulhauser said.

“It is different but we’ll make our new normal here because this is home to us,” Aroneyo said.

Although the student body is smaller than before the storm, down to 200 from 275, teachers and students said their spirit is stronger than ever.

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