Schools Open Doors, A Week After Irene

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(Host) Many Vermont children returned to school a day or two late this week, thanks to Tropical Storm Irene, but seven or eight hard-hit schools can’t say when they’ll be able to open.

But those that can, plan to open Tuesday. Educators say getting back to normal routines is important for students affected by the recent flooding.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Voices) "Hey Tom, did you fare out okay at your place? Yup, yup. What about you."

(Keese) In the absence of students, who were supposed to be back by now, teachers at Leland and Gray Union High School are setting up their classrooms – but not before exchanging flood stories.

English teacher Annie Landenberger wants her kids to write about the flood.

(Landenberger) "When the kids come back on Tuesday their first assignment is going to be to tell their story about Irene."

(Keese) Landerberger says writing about what happened will be good for some. And putting their stories together could give them a sense of being part of history.

She’s worried about them during the six day delay between the scheduled opening of school and next week’s actual first day.

(Landenberger) "Especially with what’s going on, they need to see their friends. A lot of the kids that we teach are isolated. They live in pretty remote areas."

Leland and Gray principal Dorinne Dorfman says the kids need to come back to school.

(Dorfmann) "We have breakfast we have lunch, we have sports we have arts, and we have their teachers who care so much about them and want to experience this with them, and also bring routine and normality in their lives."

(Keese) Steven John is superintendent of the district, which includes seven elementary schools in Southern Vermont West river Valley. He says all will try to open by September 6th.

(John) "I say try to because the question mark really is regarding Wardsboro. The Wardsboro roads are really pretty bad. They’re going to have a town meeting on Saturday and the board chair will advise me."

(Keese) But schools in Bethel, Rochester, Stockbridge, Moretown, Roxbury and Grafton are listed on the Department of Education Web site as ‘closed until further notice.’

(Keese) Schools in Brattleboro opened Wednesday. John Reed is principal of the town’s Green Street School.

He’s on a list serve for principals around the state and he’s seeing plenty of stories of hardship.

(Reed) "Then there’s all these other schools that are offering to send busloads of kids to help with relief efforts. Twinfield school’s gathering Friday afternoon. They’re collecting donations. There’s a lot of schools that are having food drives."

(Keese) He says it takes a school to turn a disaster into a learning opportunity.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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