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After occupying space at two schools on the Lower East Side following Hurricane Sandy, Millennium High School’s students and teachers were happy to be back in their own building — though it is still under repair. On Mon., Nov. 26, the school returned to its 75 Broad Street location for the first time since it was flooded by the storm. The day the building reopened, it was still lacking phone and Internet service, and electricity was temporarily being supplied by a transformer.
The day that school was back in session, trucks and work crews who were repairing a massive building across the street blocked Millennium’s main entrance on South William Street. While the doors were functional, white, chemically-scented steam was billowing around the entrance, and large trucks lined both sides of the street, making it difficult to access. Instead, students were directed to the entrance on the corner of Broad and South William Streets.
“Mr. McEvoy [the principal] told students when they went out to lunch that they should stay off the plaza, because they are working on the building across the street at 85 Broad St.,” said Angela Benfield, Millennium’s parent coordinator.
While it is not business as usual yet, Benfield was positive about the first day, saying, “Everybody is thrilled to be back. There were balloons, and everyone was smiling.”
The teens’ parents were relieved their children were back on Broad Street, having petitioned the city to get moving on the building’s restoration. Parents’ Association president Tara Silberberg had organized a letter-writing campaign among the parents and was regularly phoning the Department of Education and other representatives for updates on the situation.
“The D.O.E. was saying two months before they were going to get us in,” said Silberberg, who voiced frustration about the changing timelines and lack of clear information. “I said, ‘Get the building open or let the kids go back up and get the stuff out of their lockers. We are a textbook-free school. They need their notes.’”
The building’s interior has been almost completely renovated. The cafeteria staff cleaned out the kitchen the weekend prior to the reopening and the custodial staff cleared the multipurpose room, which was used to store much of the school’s equipment. Students were pleasantly surprised to find two of Millennium’s three elevators functioning properly, but, had they been out of service, the teens would still have attended class in the upper floors.
“The kids took a school-wide vote,” said Silberberg. “They voted to climb the stairs [13 flights of them] rather than stay in the other schools. I was really proud of them.”
— Kaitlyn Meade