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Wolf Hill Welcomes Monmouth Beach Students

The Oceanport school opened its doors to 38 kindergarten and preschool children after the Monmouth Beach school was closed due to severe storm damage.

Wolf Hill School in Oceanport reopened after Sandy with a slight increase in its population when 38 students from Monmouth Beach took over two classrooms while their school is renovated following storm damage.

Although the timeline for getting back into the school is six months, Oceanport Schools Superintendent Andrew Orefice said at the Nov. 20 board of education meeting, "I will be shocked if Monmouth Beach gets back any time soon."

In the meantime, the 24 kindergarten and 14 preschool students are transitioning from a culture where students still walk home for lunch each day and ride their bikes to school.

"It's culture shock but they're loving it," said Wolf Hill Principal Melanie Lipinski of the students' introduction to hot lunches and school buses when they started at Wolf Hill on Nov. 13.

The students are being taught by their Monmouth Beach teachers in the Wolf Hill's art and music rooms and those teachers are bringing their lessons to students throughout the building by cart.

Orefice said he didn't question the educational feasibility of sacrificing the art and music rooms for the Monmouth Beach students. "It's a no-brainer to help your neighbors," he said.

Oceanport kindergarteners welcomed their new classmates on their first day last week with some songs and the Monmouth Beach children joined the rest of the school on Wednesday for their Morning Meeting, said Lipinski.

The Monmouth Beach students got a big surprise on Tuesday when 20 bags of new toys arrived from the Fair Haven schools to replace some of their belongings swept away by Sandy. "The kids lost a lot," said Lipinski, who's making sure to stay on top of which student needs what.

As for the district's original school popuation, Orefice said that all but two students had been accounted for and plans were in place to provide those displaced with free lunches, counselling and transportation for the immediate future.

Some teachers have even gone so far as to volunteer to help students with homework and provide child care before or after school for families whose routines had been uprooted by the storm.

"It makes me proud to do what I do," Orefice said.

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