Re­turn to school poses new chal­lenges

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - BY JEF­FREY S. SOLOCHEK Times Staff Writer

Stu­dents weren’t on va­ca­tion — they went through a dis­as­ter.

Maritere Gar­cia has spent a lot of time think­ing about the day her kinder­garten­ers re­turn to Wire­grass El­e­men­tary School in Wes­ley Chapel.

She knows the young­sters have ex­pe­ri­enced po­ten­tially trau­matic times dur­ing and after Hur­ri­cane Irma. She saw pho­tos of some sleep­ing in clos­ets, knows that they might not have power at home, or worse.

“I can’t wait to be back to nor­mal,” Gar­cia said.

That nor­malcy might not ar­rive on the first day stu­dents across the Tampa Bay area head back to school on Mon­day after an anx­i­ety-fu­eled week away.

So Gar­cia has pre­pared some ideas to let the chil­dren ex­press them­selves about the storm, with­out gen­er­at­ing more wor­ries.

She will ask them to draw pic­tures and write sto­ries about what they saw and learned dur­ing Irma, not so much about de­struc­tion and catas­tro­phe, but about their ob­ser­va­tions and their ideas how to aid oth­ers who suf­fered more se­verely.

“All pos­i­tive,” Gar­cia said. “I’ll be ready to talk about ways we can help and fo­cus on the good things.”

Deal­ing with ma­jor nat­u­ral dis­as­ters can un­der­mine chil­dren’s sense of se­cu­rity. The


Prin­ci­pal Steve Williams takes a selfie with the staff of Wire­grass El­e­men­tary on Fri­day as they pre­pared to re­open.

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