- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - It’s the end of sandbag duty and back to the books for Fargo students who missed almost two weeks of school to help their city fend off a potentially disastrous flood.

Classes were canceled as the students joined the round-the-clock sandbagging effort to protect the Fargo area as the Red River pressed against the city’s levees. They prepared to go back to the grind on Monday.

“It’s almost like the first day of school in many ways,” said Morgan Forness, principal of Oak Grove Lutheran School, which lost two buildings on its campus when part of a permanent flood wall buckled and let the river in. “They’re kind of excited to get back in action here.”

Administrators hoped returning to class would be one more step back to normal routine for a community exhausted from sandbagging and nervous about another flood fight possible later in the month. The Red River has been falling in Fargo since its record crest of 40.82 feet on March 28, but the National Weather Service says another crest in mid-April could be higher.

“We want to get back to the rhythms and routines that make life as normal as possible,” said Rick Buresh, superintendent of Fargo public schools.

Katrina Sauter, a Fargo South High School junior, said the only studying she’s done the last two weeks was for a college entrance exam.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again,” she said Sunday. “I haven’t really left my house very much, except to sandbag.”

Thousands of students from elementary school to college helped fill and stack sandbags, often singing while they worked. Lowell Wolff, an assistant Fargo superintendent, said he rarely saw a group of sandbagging students who weren’t smiling.

“We would have literally been sunk without them,” Buresh said. “We can have great confidence about our future knowing how they distinguished themselves in this.”

Katrina Sauter said the effort was amazing.

“I thought it was really cool. I didn’t think the whole community would come together like that,” she said.

Buresh and other superintendents said the school days lost to the flood should not change final tests and graduation plans. But getting to school may not be routine. Millions of sandbags stacked to block the high water remain in place and many roads were battered by convoys of trucks and heavy equipment.

Bus routes had to be altered because some rural roads remain under water.

“We don’t want anyone to rush getting to school on Monday,” Wolff said. “We want everyone to consider safety, just like they do on the first day of school.”

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