LUMBERTON, SC (WMBF) - Families are still out of their homes across Robeson County, along with the 42 schools that are still closed down due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
West Lumberton Elementary is one of nine schools in the city of Lumberton and was by far the hardest hit from flooding. It will open Monday, Oct. 31, along with all of the other schools in the district. Students will report to the 300 wing of the Lumberton Junior High campus.
The school district said because of all of the water damage, mold, boil water advisories, sanitation issues and air quality, it has been three weeks that schools have not been able to open. The devastation from the storm caused many issues the district said people aren't aware of.
There are still 81 roads that are impassable and impacted from flooding, so the Public Schools of Robeson County Department of Transportation has to re-route bus routes altogether.
Fortunately, internet access has now been restored in the entire district, which is vital for West Lumberton Elementary's 1-1 technology school.
Principal Tara Bullard said the media room is where 50 iPads, 15 laptops and all of the charging stations were lost.
"I was absolutely devastated when I came that very first day," Bullard said. "It's been difficult but I know I have to be strong because I have children who look up to me, I have parents who are looking for answers and I have staff members who are looking to me to lead them."
She added that the day before the storm hit, she and her staff had no idea what to expect, especially not being able to walk through the door one week later.
"The superintendent has been working tirelessly to make sure that when our kids come back to us, they care coming back to familiar faces because they have suffered enough already," Bullard said.
One family that lives down the street from West Lumberton Elementary School is still displaced and wondering how to get the kids back to school when all their belongings are on the porch.
Linda Brewer, mom of three, said more than a foot of water came up into her home.
"Things on the floor, things turned over," she said. "It was dark and murky water we were walking through, wading through in boots, water boots. We had most of the furniture and just about everything out of the house before the clean-up crew came and helped us, so it wouldn't cause even more mold and water damage."
Brewer and her family got everything out of her home as quick as possible, but still do not know when things will return normal.
"Just go back to school and study even harder," she said. "You know, you missed a lot of school. You don't want to go back and get extra schooling, so better study hard."
West Lumberton Elementary staff said their families have wondered when school would return for long enough and want to reassure them.
"It's an awesome responsibility, and with that it just comes with the job, you know it comes with the job," Bullard said. "I love them and I want them to know that I love them and I'm praying for them daily. This is where generations of people who live in this community have come to, and they want to come back."