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Displaced by Plant City sinkhole, students return to Trapnell

PLANT CITY — The school buses pulled up to Trapnell Elementary School on Monday morning, just like they used to.

The students rushed off the bus to the waiting principal and faculty, high-fiving as they passed.

One little girl walked up to a guidance counselor, teary-eyed. She'd forgotten where her classroom was.

Another kid stepped off the bus and raised both his hands in the air.

"It's good to be back," he said.

For the first time since a sinkhole forced their evacuation in January, Trapnell students returned to their home school Monday morning.

The displaced younger students had been crammed into Bailey Elementary, while older kids occupied classrooms at Strawberry Crest High.

Alma Requena walked her 4-year-old daughter Julisa to class. Both mom and daughter were happy she's back to her usual school.

Julisa, a Head Start student, didn't like Bailey, even toward the end of her stay there, her mother said.

"She used to cry every morning," Requena said.

The 20-minute commute to Bailey also frustrated Requena. She had to drive Julisa to school for the first three weeks until the school arranged alternate transportation.

"That was a lot of gas," she said.

The return to Trapnell had its own issues, assistant principal Krissy Perkins said.

The teachers and students were given Monday to get reacclimated to their surroundings.

Teachers had about 10 minutes to set up their classrooms before the start of school, much like their rapid exit after the sinkhole scare.

"We came back in the way we left," Perkins said.

Special classes such as art, music and computer lab are back in Trapnell's curriculum. Administrators canceled those classes during the move, with teachers split between two schools.

As the school day continued on Monday, Perkins said she looked at her handbook all the time to remind herself of the changing schedule.

But principal Rhonda Pulling said the changes were easy to get used to, compared to their three-month exile.

"You step out, you hear the roosters crowing," she said. "It's just so nice to be home."

Hilary Lehman can be reached at hlehman@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

Displaced by Plant City sinkhole, students return to Trapnell 04/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 19, 2010 10:28pm]
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