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Students Urged To Discuss Feelings As Schools Reopen

October 16, 1989

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) _ Students built houses for displaced birds, wrote essays and talked out their feelings about Hurricane Hugo when classes resumed Monday for 44,000 youngsters, nearly one month after the storm hit.

″They were all smiles and ready to go back to work,″ said Lincoln High Principal Jennings Austin. ″Kids seem to bounce back stronger and higher than adults do.″

But not all students in Charleston County went back to their own schools. Some public school buildings were so badly damaged that they will be closed for months for repairs.

Lincoln High, in McClellanville, was heavily damaged in the storm which ripped into South Carolina with 135 mph wind on Sept. 21. The school’s 300 students will attend classes at Wando High School until repairs are completed, probably in February.

Students from Sullivans Island Elementary School, also hard-hit in the storm, will attend classes at Mamie Whitesides Elementary in Mount Pleasant for now.

″I feel more nervous about today in school than I was the first day of school,″ Wando teacher Cathy Woods admitted to her 9th-grade honors English class. ″I don’t know how many of you suffered significant losses.″

But she added, ″I want us to get back into our routine as soon as possible. ... This is not normal. This is new normal. Things will never be the same again.″

In keeping with the class’ earlier study of heroes in Greek mythology, she assigned her 14 students to write about a hero of the hurricane.

The students then discussed their experiences in the storm. Most seemed happy to be back with their peers and even those who suffered losses in the storm did not appear depressed.

One girl described how a tree had fallen through the roof of a room over her family’s garage.

″It’s neat, you can see the stars,″ she said.

Down the hall, students in Tammy Watkins’ sophomore English class were asked to keep a journal for the next week, writing down their thoughts about the hurricane.

Sarah Mahan, whose family recently moved to the area from Illinois, said she was hurt by the devastation to woodlands.

″It was really sad. We lost 15 trees in the yard. Nothing really happened to the house,″ she said.

When asked if they could think of one good thing that came out of the storm, a boy in the back of the class quipped that one good thing was there was no school.

Another mentioned acts of generosity and people helping others they hardly knew.

But Tracy Fox disagreed. ″There’s not one good thing that happened. I hated Hugo,″ she said.

Across town, at Orange Grove Elementary school, students built birdhouses for displaced birds and then discussed how some people were left homeless by the storm.

Principal Pat King said the students behaved ″beautifully.″

″We have been pleasantly surprised at how well the children have readjusted. They seemed happy to be here and didn’t seem anxious or uneasy,″ she said.

That may have to do with the extended amount of time students have been out of school.

″We think they have had a chance to talk about it and sort out their feelings,″ she said.

The students will have to make up at least part of the 16 days they missed.

″Let’s just skip this year and pass everyone,″ one Wando student joked.

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