By Dari Kotzker
The 78 students from Stone Harbor Elementary School are back in their classrooms after the school was shut down for four and a half months due to Hurricane Sandy. They went to nearby Avalon School during renovations. Gov. Chris Christie met with students and faculty to celebrate the milestone. Even with this opening, seven schools throughout the state are still closed because of storm-related damage.
“Even though they were able to attend classes, it still is a really disorienting thing for children not be in their own neighborhood school, not to be in the place where they’re used to each and every day, so getting them back here as quickly as possible became a priority most importantly for the school district and the parents, but certainly for the state as well,” Christie said.
“To the kids, they got their school back, so even though we tried to make them as comfortable as possible in Avalon School, it was a little crowded. They had their own space, but it’s their school, so they’re happy to be back,” said Stone Harbor and Avalon Superintendent Stacey LaRocca Tracy.
Some students got the opportunity to ask the governor questions, ranging from if he took a limo to get there, if Michelle Obama is enchanting — to which he answered yes — and if it’s hard to be the governor.
“It was really hard during the hurricane. It was hard being governor then because so many people who were suffering, who lost their homes, lost their school like you did. You want to try to help them right away, but you have to be patient and just do your job,” Christie said.
Christie spoke about Memorial Day weekend. He said he expects most boardwalks to be rebuilt by then, especially south of Long Beach Island.
“As you move further north, it’s more problematic. In places like Belmar and Sea Bright, you’re going to have operating boardwalks, but maybe not all the businesses will be open,” Christie said.
How did he feel about the looming bankruptcy filing by the Revel resort, which the Christie administration has called the key to Atlantic City.
“Actually relieved, they’re turning their debt into equity at Revel, they’re bringing in a new CEO and new management team,” Christie said.
The governor said he had no problem with today’s U.S. Senate hearings on hurricane recovery or Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s criticism of the AshBritt cleanup contract.
“I don’t think when they look deeply into what’s happened here or in New York who used AshBritt as well, under the same contract that we did from the Connecticut contract in New York City, that they’re going to see that there was any problems with it,” Christie said.
The governor says the seven remaining closed schools are on track to reopen by September of the 2013-14 school year.