The streets in the neighborhood in northeast Houston just north of Halls Bayou were lined with furniture, drywall, and carpeting, a sure sign that their houses had flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
Joseph and Karina Mayorga had just finished remodeling their two-story house when the water came. Although they had only about a foot of water in their house, it was enough to destroy their living room furniture, appliances, new red-oak kitchen cabinets, and original hardwood floors dating to 1951.
“I wanted to redo the Sheetrock myself, but the insurance company said no,” Joseph said. “And even though the fridge works, we have to get a new one. They want to replace everything that got wet.”
The Mayorgas have three children: Joseph Jr., who attends Henry Middle School; Nicholas, 9, starting third grade at Scarborough; and Breanna, 7, in first grade at Scarborough. Scarborough was one of nine HISD schools that flooded so badly that students had to be relocated to the former Terrell Middle School on Crosstimbers Road.
“Our principal, Miriam Medina, fought to keep all the students together rather than be split up between different schools,” Karina said. “I think that’s really important.”
Karina grew up in the neighborhood and attended Scarborough as well. Her mother lives next door, and she has other family in the area.
“We love Scarborough so much that we wouldn’t consider living anywhere else,” she said. “They have been so great with our kids. Joseph Jr. has dyslexia, and they helped him to where he is now a top student, and Breanna is seeing a speech therapist for a few minor issues.”
Nicholas and Breanna were asleep upstairs when their parents went up to wake them early Monday morning. “They were so excited about the first day of school they couldn’t get to sleep,” Karina said. “Breanna made lunch for herself, and she even packed a lunch for Nicholas.”
When the young students were asked how they felt about starting school, Breanna remained quiet, but Nicholas admitted to being a little nervous. “They’re looking forward to getting back because we have no internet or cable here,” said Joseph, “and they want to see their friends.” Nicholas said he had two best friends he was looking forward to seeing.
The students catch the bus at 7:20 a.m. in nearby James Driver Park, and today they are riding in style. Instead of a yellow school bus, they board a deluxe motor coach chartered by HISD. Scarborough teacher Lynne Bennett welcomes the students enthusiastically and shepherds them onto the bus. “Air conditioning, seat belts, and everything,” she said. Bennett would be back later to help run the afterschool program at the North East Community Center, which is also located in the park.
HISD crews had worked until the last minute getting Terrell MS ready for the Scarborough students. Breanna and Nicholas went into the gym with the other students, and administrators holding clipboards helped them find their teachers. Breanna had been looking forward to being with Ms. Wagner, her teacher from last year, but found out that she would be with Mr. Wilson instead. “You remember me from the after school program, don’t you Breanna?” he said.
Breanna and her classmates followed him to a spacious classroom they are sharing with Ms. Komatinsky’s class. Most of the youngsters sat quietly at their tables, but some were having separation anxiety, and a few were still teary-eyed as the teachers tried to figure out who everyone was so they could hand out identification badges.
Although the Texas Education Agency approved waivers that exempt students from making up nine days of classes missed due to Harvey, students at 12 schools, including Scarborough, will have to make up the time lost beyond those days. Scarborough students start their day at 7:40 a.m. and will have an extended day for the first semester, being released at 3:55 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m.
“We will be back here to pick them up at about 4:15 p.m.,” said Joseph. “It feels good to be getting back to normal.”