Most schools reopen for first time since quake

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES -- For 11-year-old Greg Jackson, the return to school was filled with anxious anticipation.

Like many of the nearly 600,000 students who returned to Los Angeles public schools yesterday, Greg had mixed feelings -- excited about seeing classmates but also fearing another earthquake would strike while he was at school.


"The first couple of days, I wanted to come back, because I thought it would be more fun with my friends," said Greg, a sixth-grader at Balboa Boulevard Magnet School in the Los Angeles area of Northridge.

But the night before returning, "I dreamed I was at school and a 5.0 earthquake came," said Greg, who lives in Northridge. "We all went outside and the ground opened up and I fell in. Then my mom woke me up and it was time for school."


All but 76 campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District reopened yesterday for the first time since the 6.6-magnitude earthquake. Many students found their schools were still in various states of disrepair with yellow tape cordoning off unsafe areas, cracked walls and disheveled classrooms.

Sixty-three sites will remain closed today, most of them in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles area hardest hit by the Jan. 17 earthquake.

Attendance figures were not being tallied yesterday. Principals and district officials estimated attendance rates in the valley ranged from 65 percent at many elementary schools to 85 percent or higher at middle schools and high schools.

Principals and district officials were busy filing out waiver forms that will allow them to obtain a majority of the state funding, which is linked to attendance.

District maintenance crews were gathering competitive bids for an estimated $700 million in rebuilding, hoping reconstruction would begin by the end of the week.

School children still at American Red Cross shelters were able to watch televised education programs on the district's educational television station, KLCS, which broadcast lessons in Spanish and English between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

At the closed John F. Kennedy High School in suburban Granada Hills, Gov. Pete Wilson examined the 100 buildings that were damaged on the campus, which was hardest hit by the quake. Workers set up the the first two of 20 portable classrooms provided by the state.

"We are determined that these kids are going to get back to school, that they will be able to do so on their own campus," Mr. Wilson said, adding that the district will get about 200 portable classrooms.


District officials hope to use the portable classrooms to avoid busing students to other sites.

At open campuses, assignments focused on the earthquake. In English, students wrote essays about their experiences. In art class, they drew pictures of their damaged homes. And in science class they learned what an earthquake is.