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In Puerto Rico, frustrated parents wonder when schools will reopen. It may be a while

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Weather News

PATILLAS, Puerto Rico -- It seems like an eternity since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and parents are getting a touch grumpy dealing with the lines to buy water and gasoline and facing constant blackouts, as youngsters bounce off the walls with boredom.

"They start having fights at home. They get rowdy," said Luis Ortiz Correa, an auto body worker and father of four. "They don't have things to entertain themselves."

One of the casualties of Hurricane Maria, the Category 4 monster that lashed the island Sept. 20, are the island's schools. Hundreds of schools are shut, and many parents in smaller interior cities and towns have no clue when they may reopen.

Many assume that schools will remain shut for months. Some families hope to send their school-aged children to the mainland to live with relatives and attend school there. School districts across the United States are bracing for an influx of Puerto Rican students.

For 16-year-old Angel Amaro, the hurricane brought multiple tragedies.

"My family and I live in a wooden house, and it was totally destroyed," the 10th-grader said, standing next to his bicycle in Maunabo, along Puerto Rico's southeastern coast. "I lost my clothes. I lost my bed. I lost everything."

Angel and his 15-year-old sister, Yamaris, held out hope that they may travel to Oklahoma to stay with a relative and enter a school there. Other relatives live in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

"We don't know if we'll lose the whole (school) year," he said.

In the town of Yabucoa, work crews used heavy machinery Sunday to drag broken trees off roads and remove fallen power lines. Traffic moved slowly. Huge lines snaked out of gas stations. Motorists and pedestrians carrying jerry cans waited to fill up.

The two-story local high school served briefly as a shelter during the hurricane and its aftermath. A broken power pole partially blocked the main entrance, and some of the hurricane shutters on windows were peeled away. A vending machine lay on its side, toppled over.

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