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Riverdale Elementary students, staff set to return to school at temporary site as cleanup continues

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Riverdale Elementary School students in Orange County will head back to the classroom Thursday morning for the first time since dismissing ahead of Hurricane Ian.

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However, the students will be attending class 20 minutes away from their usual school after it suffered severe flooding during the storm.

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Orange County Public Schools has decided that Riverdale students will attend class at East River High School, at least temporarily.

The school district hosted an open house at the high school Wednesday evening to address parents’ concerns about how the temporary placement will work.

Joann Vega is the grandmother of an autistic Riverdale Elementary School student. She says she felt many of her questions, particularly about safety, were answered Wednesday night.

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“They let us know they’re going to keep the high schools away from the elementary,” Vega said. “They have their own hallway, their own restrooms...they’re going to have lunch at a different time.”

The school district says they still have no timeline for when Riverdale will be back up and running. They released a statement saying, in part, “Orange County Public Schools is working with a contractor to complete flood mitigation, cleanup and sanitization of the Riverdale campus.”

Vegas says, even after Wednesday’s meeting, the thought of the two schools merging still makes her nervous.

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“But I’d rather they do that then to have home schooling or to have different schools,” Vega said. “It’s a scary transition for the kids but I know Riverdale, they’re working really hard.”

To help ease the transition, the district says Riverdale staff has already been allowed to tour the East River campus “to become familiar with their temporary home.” They’ve also already been given keys to their newly-assigned classrooms.

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