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Badly Damaged Union Beach School Reopens More Than 7 Months After Sandy

UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- More than seven months after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the Jersey Shore, one school has finally reopened for the final few weeks of classes.

The 700 students of Memorial School in Union Beach finally returned to their classrooms Monday. They had been split up among four different buildings since Sandy hit.

As CBS 2's Emily Smith reported, the students showed solidarity, wearing "Still Here, Still Strong" t-shirts.

Some students said it felt good to all be back under one roof again.

"We're just glad to be back, back at our home," one student told Smith.

"I'm a little upset though because we only have a little amount of being back in our school," another girl said.

The school was inundated with floodwaters and debris when the Oct. 29 storm roared ashore.

"It was a disaster. There was just muck and mud everywhere, mulch all over the building," principal Brian Walsh told Smith. "Coming back today, June 3, would just be a good moral booster and spirit lifter for community."

Now that the school has reopened, school officials are able to take an inventory of what needs to be done and what teaching materials need to be ordered.

New library books have arrived to replace the ones destroyed in the storm. But the music department lost thousands of dollars worth of instruments.

Music teacher Marilouise Metz said she lost decades worth of memorabilia.

"Pictures, photos, newspaper clippings," Metz told Smith.

The seven months of renovations included new floors, walls, desks and even murals painted by teachers, students and volunteers.

There are words of encouragement and inspiration scattered all around the school, Smith reported.

Marjorie Ferry said she had to send her three kids and grandchildren to makeshift schools while rebuilding their home.

"It's very hard. I'm one of the lucky ones. We lost a lot in our town. But we're a strong town, we're here for each other," Ferry told Smith.

To help ease the burden for parents, the school had not been charging students for lunch until the reopening on Monday.

And to pay it forward, any extra school supplies and donations will go to Oklahoma to help the tornado-ravaged schools recover from Mother Nature's devastation.

A handful of elementary students also got to visit the White House to help harvest the vegetable garden this spring. First lady Michelle Obama invited the students to help ease the burden from Sandy.

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