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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

RESERVE, La. -- Hurricane Isaac destroyed two schools in St. John Parish, and on Monday students from East St. John High finally returned to class.

Almost a month after the storm, students and staff are trying to move forward as best as they can. It hasn't been an easy time for St. John Parish.

'I heard one girl say in class when a teacher asked her does she have her paper and pencil, she said, 'No, I'm sorry. I'm not prepared because we lost everything,'' said Darlisa Gardner.

Until Monday, the 10th grader and 1500 other students were waiting patiently to return to school. Hurricane Isaac flooded their campus, damaging floors, equipment, electrical systems and school supplies.

'St. John High School took in about 9 inches of water and Lake Pontchartrain took in 14 to 16 inches,' said Herbert Smith, interim superintendent of St. John schools.

St. John Parish school officials say damage to both campuses was estimated at $23 to $25 million, more damage than expected, and it's unclear whether students and staff will be returning to those damaged campuses by the end of the school year.

The old Leon Godchaux Junior High School on River Road has reopened its doors to displaced students and staff. Volunteers spent countless hours after the storm painting hallways and setting up classrooms to allow East St. John High students a place to show up for half days of class.

'We'll be doing a platoon system. Kids will come from 7 a.m. to noon and the other from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.,' said Smith.

School board member Russ Wise said the state needs to do more to help St John Parish schools with post-Isaac recovery.

'On top of the burdens we're already carrying, quite frankly the state isn't helping. We have asked for a waiver for some of the classroom hours. After all school is opening a month behind schedule and apparently the state is refusing to do that,' said Wise.

As the St. John Parish School System fights to bounce back, one 10th grader is relieved to just be in school.

'I want to have a good future and become something in life. If I don't come to school, I can't be nothing,' said Gardner.

St. John Parish School officials say about 2,000 students were displaced by Hurricane Isaac. The superintendent said the school year will likely have to be extended to make up for lost days.

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