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Tent City Prepares For First Day of School, But Some Won’t Be Going

September 14, 1992

FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (AP) _ New school bus routes include the tent cities erected since Hurricane Andrew, but Rafael Carrillo said his children wouldn’t be getting on the buses when schools open Monday.

″So much has happened to us so fast,″ Carrillo said from his bunk in tent No. 5. ″I just want to wait a while for things to get more normal.″

Carrillo’s oldest son, 9-year-old Erick, is recovering from a gash in his leg from tripping over a tent stake. And Carillo won’t permit 5-year-old Edgar to attend kindergarten until more debris is cleared away.

″It’s not safe,″ Carrillo said. ″I would worry too much him being cut by metal or stepping on a nail. He’s too little.″

Dade County officials aren’t sure how many children would show up when they opened the doors Monday to 312,000 students, many of whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the Aug. 24 hurricane.

The start was delayed two weeks to repair damaged schools. Ten won’t reopen this year and some will be running double shifts to handle the overflow.

There was confusion over which school children would attend. Some said they would depend on bus drivers to tell them. The county planned to send out truant officers to sign up children who hadn’t enrolled.

″It’s been weird,″ said eighth-grader Daniel Velasquez, who was waiting in line for a free haircut Sunday. ″Things we always used to do ourselves are being done for us.″

Trucks loaded with used clothes backed up to the camps Sunday. Red Cross officials handed out vouchers and ran shuttle buses to a store so residents could buy children back-to-school clothes.

Military escorts were arranged to help school buses through intersections with downed traffic lights Monday.

″With them at school and day care I can start working again,″ said Jose Rodriquez, 27, a landscaper with three kids. ″I want to get them out of here. The only thing that’s been holding me back so far has been looking after the kids.″

Sharon Camargo, 9, and her sister Shirley, 10, said they were enjoying their life at a tent city in Homestead.

″There’s lots to do here,″ Sharon said as she held a donated walkie- talkie to her ear. ″They’ve got pony rides and bands and clowns and face painters. It’s fun.″

″What I care about is seeing my friends again,″ said Ana Ortiz, 14, who tiptoed through mud at the camp. ″I want to make sure they’re all right.″

At Air Base Elementary, near damaged Homestead Air Force Base, principal Aron Brumm watched as members of the 182nd Airborn Division swept the last shards of wood and broken glass from the parking lot.

The school was to open Monday, although 48 of its rooms were still unusable.

″We won’t be hitting the books right away,″ Brum said. ″The first few days will be spent allowing the children to talk about what they’ve been through, to vent their feelings and reassure them that their school is a safe, secure place.″

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