Irene Puts Some Mass. Schools 'On Hold'

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Three days after Tropical Storm Irene, tens of thousands of people in Massachusetts are still without power. Flood waters are receding, but there are still a few roads closed in the western part of the state.

Because of lingering storm effects, many communities are delaying the start of the school year. Such is the case in Marlborough, where school was supposed to open Wednesday.

A School-Turned-Shelter

When walking the halls of this city's Francis Kane Elementary School on Wednesday, what you heard in the hallways said it all.

Nothing. No talking, no laughing, no yelping. Just echoey halls.

In the aftermath of Irene, the school was converted into an emergency shelter. So in came the generator and the bottled water, and away went the pencils.

"All the various pieces of operations just had to go on hold while we took care of the most immediate needs," said Kirk Gibbons, the school's principal. "So it takes a little time to get it back up and operating."

Then came the domino effect. Schedules had to be adjusted, meetings pushed back, and parents informed — not an easy task, Gibbons says.

"Many phones don't work," he said. "And you can't charge the cellphone. So you do what you can, when you can, and you make sure you're answering the phones."

Parents Cope, Kids Exalt

Ann Kinslow was putting groceries away in her spacious suburban home Wednesday. In the next room, the family's pet tropical birds squawked and fluttered in a big white cage.

Kinslow has four kids in the Marlborough school system.

"You're ready to go back and now you can't," she said. "But the kids are happy. They're excited to have another week off. So it's been good for them. We're all pretty much frustrated at this point. Nobody's angry because you can't really help the way things are."

Ann Kinslow isn't the only parent itching to get the school doors open.

Valerie Steinman and her 12-year-old daughter Madison were soaking up the morning sun in front of a coffeeshop.

Because her daughter's school was reconfigured over the summer, they've been particularly antsy to get going.

"This year we really wanted to get in for the open door day where we get to meet the teachers," Steinman said. "We really need to know the schedule. We really need to know about the sports. So we all kind of feel like we're in a holding pattern."


For other parents, finding a babysitter suddenly became a problem. Lisa Orentlich stepped in to help a friend who had no one to look after her child.

"She has to work today, so it's been difficult for her just finding an extra week of child care," Orentlich said. "So I've been helping them out."

But while some parents are sweating it out, kids, like 10-year-old Brianna Condry, are psyched.

"Sometimes I need a break from the teachers and this gives me a break," Brianna said.

"A longer break, right?" I asked. "You just had a huge, long break."

"It gives me a longer break."

What Brianna may be forgetting is a longer summer now means a shorter one next year.

Marlborough schools will now open next Tuesday.

This program aired on August 31, 2011.


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