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Key West Schools Welcome Back Students After Hurricane Irma

Nancy Klingener
Principal Christina McPherson greets students returning to Horace O'Bryant School in Key West Wednesday. It was their first day back after Hurricane Irma.

The cafeteria at Horace O'Bryant School in Key West was once again a cacophony of voices  Wednesday as students at the elementary and middle school returned to their classrooms for the first time since Hurricane Irma.

Out front, Principal Christina McPherson was greeting students and the parents dropping them off.

"We're welcoming back 1,100 students into the building, and we're anxious to start the day and get everybody back to a new normal," McPherson said.

She said the full student body was returning — along with a few additions.

"We actually have 10 new enrollees," McPherson said. "We're welcoming students from Big Pine Academy and Sugarloaf School as well, until their residences are restored."

Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN News
Mekisha DeRoche dropped her daughter Rhea off at Horace O'Bryant in Key West on Wednesday. She said seeing the damage as she returned home after evacuating was "overwhelming."

Mekisha DeRoche of Key West was dropping off her 8-year-old son D'Angelo and her 4-year-old daughter Rhea.

"It was a rough experience and I'm happy that they're back in school and that Key West was not as much damaged as we thought," she said. She evacuated for the storm and saw the badly damaged areas of the Middle and Lower Keys on her drive home.

"This experience of coming down the Keys — it was overwhelming," she said.

The only schools left to re-start in the Keys are those in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. The Big Pine Academy and Sugarloaf School are set to open Monday, Oct. 2, along with the Key West Collegiate Academy. That's a charter school that operates on the campus of Florida Keys Community College, also set to re-open Monday.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.