Routines return as more Hudson Valley students head back to school Monday

A school bus arrives at Tappan Zee High A school bus arrives at Tappan Zee High School in Orangeburg. Today was the first day some area schools were in session. The Orangetown School District had a two hour delay. Schools in Nanuet, Clarkstown and Nyack were still closed. North Rockland Schools and Ramapo Central School District in Suffern held classes for the first time since Hurricane Sandy crippled the region. (Nov. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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After a week of silence, the hallways at Hudson Valley schools were abuzz Monday morning with students, staff and teachers swapping stories about the superstorm.

"We all have our stories to tell," said Kerrie Hunt, who runs the front desk at Ossining High School.

Many of the Hudson Valley school districts that were closed all last week returned to the routine of classes and homework Monday morning. In Rockland County, despite continued power outages at home, 90 percent of students made their way to South Orangetown classrooms.

There were a few districts in Westchester and Rockland counties -- such as Lakeland, Nyack and Clarkstown -- still grappling with closures Monday as power outages and road closures lingered after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast.

Nyack schools will reopen Tuesday with the exception of Upper Nyack Elementary School, which still did not have power Monday evening, said Superintendent Jim Montesano, who added that this was the most difficult storm he ever had to deal with as a school administrator.

"We were trying to balance the urgency we all felt to get our kids back to school, since a lot of our families are without heat, against issues of safety," Montesano said.

Hendrick-Hudson schools parent Neil Cohen searched his house with a flashlight early Monday morning to collect his children's schoolbooks. Cohen and his family have been staying with in-laws until their heat is restored. Considering what others were experiencing, he said the outage was a minor inconvenience.

The students walking in Ossining's halls Monday had mixed feeling about returning to classes. Some said they enjoyed the time off. One ninth-grader, who was lucky enough to have power, spent the days playing Xbox with his friends.

Others, like 11th-grader Jesse Tuttman, said the storm knocked him out of sorts. He was happy to return to the everyday routine of school.

"I just want to get back into the swing of things," Tuttman said.

Down the hall, science research teacher Valerie Holmes said the five days off seemed like the longest week of school so far. Her students have a big competition submission looming, so she spent the week texting and emailing them about the work to be done and the effects of the storm.

Although the week off was actually a busy one for Holmes, it was also heart-wrenching for the teacher, who always tries to help her students, she said.

"It's devastating to hear from your kids that a tree fell on their house, and you can't do anything about it," Holmes said.

In many school districts, teachers and staff already are organizing food and clothing drives to help victims in their community. In East Ramapo, where schools should open Wednesday provided power is restored, there will be food distribution at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ramapo High School, Superintendent Joel Klein said.

"Students have been without food. It's a major, major issue," Klein said.

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