After Hurricane Florence, New Hanover students back in school

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Williams Elementary among schools relocated due to storm damage.

WILMINGTON — Thursday was the second first day of school for New Hanover County’s students this year.

After 17 days at home — and in many cases, evacuated — during Hurricane Florence and its aftermath, most NHCS students returned to school. But for some kids, including students at Williams Elementary, storm damage to their schools means it will be a week or more before they’re back in their regular classroom.

So Williams faculty and staff welcomed students to Codington Elementary on Thursday, while that year-round school remains on break. Williams Principal Amy Oots stood in the kiss-and-go line, beaming and greeting students she has not seen in more than three weeks.

“I think we’re just so glad to be back at school,” she said. “And while it’s a little bit of a difficult situation, we’re just glad to be back.”

Tanya Bellat dropped off her first-grade daughter at the unfamiliar school Thursday. She said she’s happy to have her back in class, even if her daughter was enjoying the impromptu vacation.

“It’s kind of a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “I’m kind of wondering what’s going to happen after next Friday, because I’m worried their building’s not going to be ready.”

Williams suffered significant water damage during Florence, like many other schools. The district has freed up $4 million from its general fund to help cover repairs from the storm.

Help is already arriving from the federal government, which through October will provide free breakfast and lunch to every NHCS student, the district announced.

“It just feels wonderful to get the kids back to a little bit of normal,” said cafeteria worker Lorraine Carilli.

Codington Principal Graham Elmore joined Oots to welcome his school’s temporary students.

“We’re one district working to help all the kids,” he said. “It’s great that we have the resources to be able to do that.”

Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at