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Minus desks, internet and phones, Coney Island school reopens

P.S. 288 returns two months after suffering major Sandy damage

Children stream out of P.S. 288, near the Coney Island Boardwalk, on their first day back in their Sandy-shuttered school. Photo: Gianna Palmer

Parents lined the sidewalk of West 25th in Brooklyn on Monday afternoon as their children streamed out of P.S. 288 for the first time since October.

“How was your first day, baby?” Karla Matthie, 22, asked her smiling 4-year-old daughter, Zaniya.

The last public school in Coney Island to remain closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, the Shirley Tanyhill School is just a block from the Coney Island Boardwalk. It reopened Monday.

“Welcome back,” a man said as he passed Joelene-Lynette Kinard, the principal at the Shirley Tanyhill School.

Kinard said that while Monday had been “wonderful,” the last couple months had been anything but. Flooding during the storm released the contents of oil tanks in the school’s basement, bringing oil and water up to the first floor and damaging seven classrooms, the cafeteria and the school nurse’s office, she said. Extensive repairs were required before the school could welcome back its students.

“It was such bad damage I didn’t even know if we would open this soon,” Kinard said.

While the school was closed in November and December, its nearly 500 students, from pre-K to 8th grade, were taken by bus to I.S. 228 David A. Boody school in Gravesend, Brooklyn, three miles away.

Maria Ramos, 42, a parent of two children at P.S. 288, said that when Sandy hit, it was clear the damage to the school would be severe.

“I live right here,” she said, pointing to an apartment building across the street, “so we saw how the school went under the water.” The night of the storm, the water came rushing in from “both directions,” she added.

Ramos said she began to see crews working to repair the school beginning a week after the storm. Things weren’t quite back to normal yet Monday, however.

“There’s no furniture for pre-K and K yet. It’s supposed to come today,” said Adrienne Danio, a family assistant for pre-Kindergarten students. Even so, she reported the kids were “so happy” to be back.

Matthie, mother of Zaniya, agreed.

“She liked the first day,” Matthie said. “They didn’t have any desks yet, but they still were able to learn.”

Among the happy kids was Amy Alvarado, 10, Maria Ramos’ daughter.

“The best part was that we get our own room back, and we don’t have to share with other classes because there’s more space now,” Alvarado said. At I.S. 228, the temporary school, Alvarado said her fifth grade class was combined with another class into one room.

Building in time to take the bus was another inconvenience for P.S. 288 students, many of whom live within walking distance from their school. During the closure, Alvarado and her brother Aaron, 9, had to be in front of P.S. 288 by 7 a.m. to catch the bus, an hour and a half earlier than usual.

The return to Shirley Tanyhill means it’s back to a later wake-up time for the Alvarado kids.

Thanks to the reopening, “I’m getting a lot of sleep,” Amy said.

As of Monday, besides missing furniture, the school was still without internet and phone service. No matter, said Kinard, the principal.

“We don’t have any of that, but we’re home.”

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