Buses lumbered through sandy streets, and children bounced past piles of debris Tuesday as the Long Beach school district held classes for the first time in more than two weeks.
The 4,000-student seaside system -- along with the East Rockaway, Island Park, Lindenhurst and Oceanside districts -- was ravaged by superstorm Sandy. And while each district is having a full or partial opening this week, some students will be on unfamiliar ground, with a few schools combining because others were damaged.
Long Beach High School, for example, is housing its own students plus the district's middle schoolers. Lindell Elementary School is hosting displaced kids from Lido Elementary, and the East School is filled with West Elementary students.
Scott Powers, 13 and an eighth-grader at Long Beach Middle School, said he had a hard time finding his classes inside the high school but predicted it would get better. His sister, Mali, 12, also at the high school, said it was packed.
"When you walked through the hallways, you would get squished," she said. "Me and my friends would travel together and get lost and end up going in a circle. But we got to see each other. I would rather be at school than not."
Superintendent David Weiss said 89 percent of the district's high schoolers made it to class Tuesday, and he still is trying to locate some students. Eighty percent of middle-school kids were present.
"If I could have, I would have started school earlier," he said. "We still have kids in shelters."
East Rockaway had a partial opening Tuesday. Rhame Elementary students were relocated to the Centre Avenue school, and junior and senior high students are supposed to attend schools in the Baldwin district starting Thursday, officials said.
Tuesday marked the first time that all of Lindenhurst's schools were open.
Sandy shuttered the Harding Avenue school, and last week's nor'easter knocked out power at William Rall Elementary and the administrative building. The district closed last Thursday and reopened Friday, with Harding still off-limits, before all campuses again could open.
While Lindenhurst had strong attendance, several students have relocated, with one family moving to Florida, Superintendent Richard Nathan said.
"We have many families that are living on the second floor of a two-story building" because the first floor is uninhabitable, he said.
Despite such challenges, the district is moving forward, with sporting events bolstering school spirit. "It's like my mother used to say: 'We're in pretty good shape for the shape we're in,' " Nathan said.
The Island Park district is to open Wednesday. Students in kindergarten through grade 8 all will attend Lincoln Orens Middle School. Bus service will be available if traffic lights are running, school officials said. Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School remains closed.
Oceanside schools also opened for the first time Tuesday, with students from Fulton Avenue School No. 8 attending Kindergarten-Pre-K Center No. 6.
Superintendent Herb Brown visited four schools and asked a group of first-graders at Walter S. Boardman Elementary School No. 9E where they were staying.
"Some were living in hotels, some with grandma, some with friends, but yet they were in school," he said.