The road leading up to the school looks like it did after Ike leveled everything in its wake. Slabs are left where houses and buildings once stood, and debris is still piled up on both sides of the road.
Crenshaw Elementary sticks out…the building is cleaned up. Inside the cafeteria, students, teachers and school employees reveling in the reopening, almost five months after the storm. Bill Heuman is the principal. He says about one third of the school’s enrollment was back.
“51 students returned, and I’m sure our numbers will grow, giving the community a chance to reestablish itself and, kind of be the anchor of support and a safe place for kids to come and receive the great education they always have here.”
Students went to other schools in the country. Melissa Symphony teaches first and second grade.
“We’ve worked really hard to get the kids back into school this year and we’re just ready to hit the ground running, and I have a big smile on my face, that’s for sure.”
Tessa Tedder wears many hats at the school. She’s the parent of a student and the president of the PTA.
“A lot of people lost everything and my priority right now is basically trying to help the needs of the children any way that we can.”
Hernandez: “As the mother of a student here, how did your daughter absorb this experience?”
Tedder: “I would say she took it better than I did. I took a lot of criticism because people said you don’t need to show her that stuff. This is real life.”
Students I talked to were very happy to return. I asked Linda Cruz if she had trouble sleeping.
“Not really. I was excited.”
Hernandez: “What’s the big part that makes you happy to be back?”
Cruz :“I know all the teachers here and I’ve been here since a little girl.”
Hernandez: “And who am I talking to?”
Diego Truviartes: “Diego Truviartes.”
Hernandez : “What is it about today that you’re not going to forget?”
Truviartes: “That the school’s open and get to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen for such a long while.”
School employee Jackie Payne says seeing the kids back was a moving experience.
“I think that we’re fortunate that we’re able to open up our school, and to be able to provide something for the community to come back to.”
Hernandez: “Seeing the kids and the smiles on their faces, that’s got to really make you feel good.”
Payne: “Click, click, click with the red shoes. There is no place like home — yes it is. It brings a lot of tears. We as adults are used to dealing with things and problems, but they’ve been right along with their parents, so I’m very impressed with them.”
For principal Bill Heuman, reopening Crenshaw serves as inspiration for the community.
“It looks pretty much like it did before the storm and again, I think that’ll give everyone hope that the whole community will come back in that manner, eventually.”
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.