Children returned to school on Monday in some of the New Orleans suburbs hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, relieving weary parents as officials sought to soothe students left jittery by destroyed homes and scattered families.
Between one-third and one-half of the 52,000 children in Jefferson Parish's public schools were back in class on Monday, said Diane Roussel, the district's superintendent. In addition, about 3,600 students from areas where schools remain closed have flocked to the district, and many more were still registering.
Kimberly Locantro, a chatty second-grader at Ella Dolonde, appeared excited about her first day back at school after having spent the five weeks since the storm in Little Rock, Arkansas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Houston before returning to a home ravaged by Katrina's 150 mile per hour winds.
To help ease the transition for children whose families were uprooted by Katrina, a social worker at Airline Park Elementary School in Metairie read to a student assembly a story about a girl born during a hurricane. Teachers also handed out multicolored Mardi Gras beads and sang songs about New Orleans.
Nonprofit organization Save the Children is training guidance counselors and other school officials in Jefferson Parish and other parts of Mississippi and Louisiana to get children to discuss their feelings about the hurricane.
"Children are incredibly resilient," said Carl Triplehorn, an emergency-education specialist with Save the Children. "It's just re-establishing the social networks, re-establishing a sense of trust and stability that enables them to recover."
Parents, many of which only returned to their homes this week, were pleased to finally be back to a routine, Reuters reports.