Hofstra Pulse Magazine

Home is Truly Where the Heart Is

Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School welcomes students back after Hurricane Sandy.

By Jake Brown

Students returning to school on December 10th. Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

Students returning to school on December 10th.
Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

“When you need it most, that’s when people are most there.”

Those were the words of an emotional Principal Amanda Muldowney, 51, when she looked back at the resiliency of her staff, students and community in the aftermath of the storm.

Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School in Freeport, NY, saw some of the worst of Superstorm Sandy. The storm closed the school for six weeks, displacing students and teachers throughout four different schools in the district fortunate to be up and running. The target date for the reopening of Leo F. Giblyn was set for December 10th.

Principal Muldowney lives just a mile away from the school in Freeport. Her own basement and first floor had severe flooding and her home is still not fully renovated from the damage the superstorm left behind.

“It was pretty challenging at home dealing with issues getting everything together then coming to school and doing the same,” Muldowney said.

It was no easy task getting the school back in tip-top shape. The building needed an immense amount of work to make it safe for the students and faculty to return. There were six to eight inches of water throughout the first floor, leaving substantial damage. The gym suffered the worst of the water damage. Its floor needed to be completely redone and even when the school opened, it was still unfinished.

Furniture, cabinets, desks, shelves, doors, books, teaching materials, and carpets were all destroyed. A lot needed to be done and the aid by the community made the long process possible.

“It was tremendous. Just inspirational. You wanted to give because of the generosity of others,” Muldowney said.

The school received help from Freeport and the surrounding communities. Money was donated from numerous schools and organizations which was used to get new supplies and equipment. One teacher sent 18 boxes of coats to ensure every single child owned a coat to wear in the cold winter months. Muldowney was certainly appreciative of the aid that Leo F. Giblyn received during its tough time.

“We were the recipients of a lot of love and support,” she said. “There was so much generosity. It was amazing.”

When the school was finally back to life with most operations back in order, it felt like everything was right again.

Principal Muldowney, 51, speaks to students on their first day back. Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

Principal Muldowney, 51, speaks to students on their first day back.
Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

“There’s a tremendous feeling that you are welcome here. You’re part of a family,” Muldowney said.

Balloons were outside the front of the building and teachers were present to give their students welcoming hugs. They came back to school on December 10th, the exact date targeted for their return. Muldowney felt elated to have everyone back under one roof.

“It felt like I had all my kids back. Literally how a mother feels when they have children and grandchildren here,” she said.

The school is finally back to normal with most equipment and supplies replaced. It was not an easy process to get the school up and running, but the camaraderie and resiliency of everyone involved made it all possible. Leo F. Giblyn Elementary and Principal Amanda Muldowney had made it through the most difficult time they had ever faced.

“To know that we got through it was the best feeling of all.”

Leo F. Giblyn Elementary students happy to be back home again. Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

Leo F. Giblyn Elementary students happy to be back home again.
Photo Credit: Steve Kolodny/Leo F. Giblyn Elementary Public Relations

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