BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - When classes start again in Pendleton County schools, teachers and administrators will focus on more than education.
With one in five students affected by the March 1 Licking River flood, officials are preparing to help rebuild students' lives as well as their schools.
''Right now we've got an ordeal to get our buildings cleaned up and get back in here,'' high school principal Steve Craig said. ''We're tough people down here. We will survive.''
Reopening is scheduled for Monday three weeks after flood waters damaged one school and turned others into emergency shelters and offices for disaster relief agencies.
High school teachers will meet with a state trauma team on Friday to discuss how to talk about the flood with students, Mr. Craig said.
Counselors will be available in all of the schools to talk with students, parents and teachers.
Officials estimate that 550 students - 20 percent of the school population - were affected by the flood. That number could rise once school restarts and teachers have regular contact with students, Assistant Superintendent Larry Sutton said.
''At this point we don't even know where a lot of our students are,'' Betty McKinney, testing coordinator, said Monday. ''Some students have called and they are out of the district and maybe won't be coming back.''
School officials now are working to sanitize rooms and carpets in the high, middle and two elementary schools. Agencies using school buildings are being moved to other locations.
Only Pendleton Middle School sustained water damage. Two feet of water filled the basement home economics, band, choral, social studies and science classrooms, cafeteria and student lockers.
Scraped down to a bare concrete floor, the basement needs to be covered with 16,000 square feet of tile before the school can reopen.
''Getting that and someone to lay it has been a problem,'' Mr. Sutton said.
He is working with the health department to see whether it will allow the building to be used with a washed and sanitized concrete floor.
What the schools and students need now is money.
Personal items and textbooks left in lockers at the middle school were destroyed.
District officials are asking those who want to help to send cash donations to the Pendleton County Education Foundation, P.O. Box 57, Falmouth 41040.
The district's two family resource centers will work with teachers to determine what students and their families need.
Besides the basics of clothes, book bags and school supplies, these students need toys and recreation equipment.
''One of the things we tend to forget is that it's important for them to have something to do in their free time,'' Mr. Sutton said.
With the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other relief groups occupying the high school gym, students will be limited in physical exercise classes.
The senior trip to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia is still scheduled with 43 of 165 seniors attending.
But the opening of schools won't ease the pressure on students and personnel. They will immediately have to prepare for the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS) tests.
Mr. Sutton and school principals are anticipating lower scores.
''We have a number of students who are emotionally distraught because they don't have a place to live,'' Mr. Sutton said. ''Kids in those kinds of conditions are not going to do well on state standardized tests. And being out of school for three weeks certainly will hamper their ability to perform.''
Pendleton students are scheduled to take the KIRIS tests between April 14 and May 2. Ms. McKinney said the district is asking for an extension until May 9.
The state won't make a decision until after students are back in classes. Ms. McKinney said if there is no deferment, the tests will be given closer to May 2.
''We want to give the kids some time to readjust and get settled down,'' she said.
The district has been given an extension on student portfolios that were supposed to be submitted March 28. The state allows an extension to May if five to 10 days are missed during March.
Students will make up most of the three weeks of missed classes at the end of the year. Three of those days will be made up on March 31, April 1 and April 2.