BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH, Ky. - Thomas Jordan was glad to be back in classes Monday, the first day he'd seen many of his friends in three weeks.
''I've seen a lot of people that I didn't know where they were,'' Thomas, a junior, said as he talked with friends in study hall at Pendleton County High School.
There were plenty of reunions inside the district's four schools Monday - among friends, teachers and students, and colleagues.
The atmosphere was charged with a bit of excitement and the slight dampness of sorrow. Though the noisy chatter of students made high school Principal Steve Craig say things were pretty much back to normal, underneath it all, they weren't.
Thomas and his family lost their home in Butler. ''It was totaled. Moved off the foundation. We're living now in a trailer close to the Grant County line.''
A trumpet player in the school band, Thomas does have one thing he's really looking forward to: Florida. The band leaves within a week for Disney World, to strut its stuff for spring break vacationers.
Teacher's aide Rita Caldwell said the transition back to a school routine had gone well. ''The kids are upbeat,'' she said.
Last week, school officials were concerned that many students whose families were displaced might not return to Pendleton County. They estimate that one in five students was affected by the March 1 flooding.
But Monday's attendance was 94 percent. ''People who were staying outside the county have found people to live with, and the kids are coming to school,'' director of pupil personnel Gordon Staten said.
Getting back into the routine will be a slow process, administrators said. Workloads were light Monday, with discussions in many classes revolving around floods instead of the traditional math, English and science.
''That's all anyone talks about, is the flood,'' senior Brandie Carr said as she and sophomore Carla Reed sat on the floor in the school's weight room.
There were no workouts today, just talk. Carla spent her time off helping neighbors move out of their home, destroyed in the flooding. They live across the street in DeMossville.
The girls said they expect things to return to pre-flood states. Graduation and class trips lie ahead, but so does recovery.
''Even if our homes weren't touched, we were all affected by the flood,'' Brandie said.
Thomas Jordan agrees. He said coming back to school made him feel better, but it didn't change things.
''It'll never be normal,'' he said. ''I lost a lot of personal things I can't replace.''