Classes postponed, but school buildings put to good use

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Area - posted Tue., Sep. 6, 2011
A Red Cross truck tells residents that relief is available at the high school. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
A Red Cross truck tells residents that relief is available at the high school. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

More than a week after tropical storm Irene swept through the northeast, many Connecticut residents are still cleaning up, and downed trees and line crews are still fairly common sights.

While the days since Irene have been tough for nearly everyone in the region, with more than half the state losing electricity, area students will have a reminder of the storm long after the debris is cleared and the power is restored.

“I was excited to go back [to school] last week,” said Alex, a Salem student preparing to enter his first year at East Lyme High School.  He, like all other students across the area, had their opening day postponed for nearly a week, until Tuesday, Sept. 6, due to the effects of the storm.

Now, the first day excitement of many students has been tempered by the realization that they are starting the school year nearly a week late, already racking up days that will have to be made up at some point. And some fear that another snowy winter, like last year, could push the start of next summer’s break into July, or force the elimination of some mid-year vacations.

Even worse, the extra week wasn’t much fun for many of the students.

“It’s been pretty boring. I’ve played some board games and tried to read, but it’s hard in the dark,” said Andrew, an East Haddam middle school student. He, like many other kids - and adults - missed his electronic entertainment when the power was out.

But just because the schools were empty of students and staff, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t put to good use in most towns.  Nathan Hale-Ray High School served as a distribution center for bottled water, MREs (meals ready to eat) and other supplies, and, like several other area schools, opened the locker rooms for residents without water to take showers.

Similarly, Elmer Thienes–Mary Hall Elementary School in Marlborough served as a FEMA distribution point for water and food.  Last Sunday, Sept. 4, the Red Cross visited East Hampton High School, distributing water, food and other supplies to residents still without power.

“This is really getting old,” said a clearly frustrated Jerry Haynes, as he lifted a case of water into his car trunk. “I have a new appreciation for electricity,” he said.

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