Irene's flash flooding dumped river water and sewage into Moretown Elementary and sent the school's new principal into a tailspin.
"It wasn't even on my radar. There's nothing in the handbook, the administrative handbook, on flooding, gas leaks and evacuations. So it was minute by minute," Principal Duane Pierson said.
Pierson's school is now closed indefinitely. Fans-- not students-- now fill the halls. A professional cleaning crew has been hired through the school's insurer to get rid of the smell and tear up the floors, freeing up teachers to lend a hand in the community.
Teacher Brenda Hartshorn said, "I went to Town Hall with my gloves and my boots and my bleach and said, I'm here, can I help?"
Hartshorn is not alone. There were more than a dozen teachers working alongside their students.
They may be outside the classroom but these kids say they're learning valuable life lessons.
"We're learning how to be a community and that's even better than learning algebra in my opinion," Moretown student Kathryn Pilliod said.
"I feel like I should help people," student Jacob Palmerio said. "And I just feel like it wouldn't be very nice if I just stayed home."
The dust here is thick and no one's quite sure what's in it. The town is handing out masks, and parents and teachers are trying to keep the younger children out of it.
For parents in this community, no school is quickly turning into a child care nightmare.
"I took the day off on Tuesday to stay with the kids and I actually came into town and watched somebody else's kids, so they could clean up their house," dad Stephen Magill said.
If the closure continues the district will seek temporary locations to hold classes. Long term, Moretown may be forced to ask the state to reduce the number of mandatory school days. For now, the teachers are focused on making sure their kids are OK.
"We're not worried about making up the days," Hartshorn said. "We're worried about getting back to school so the kids can have some sort of a normal routine away from this."
Now Moretown is certainly not the only school facing this issue. The Vermont Department of Education says Grafton, Bethel, Stockbridge and Rochester schools are also closed indefinitely, and dozens more are delayed more than a week.
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