Community spirit takes hold as law enforcement, school officials offer helping hand

SAN MATEO -- Even though schools are not in session until Monday at the earliest, one elementary school opened its doors Thursday to local school children and their families.

Browning-Pearce Elementary School Principal Ashley McCool said most of the children who attend school in the area were still without power.

“We don’t have power here either,” McCool said. “We’re working off the generator.”

School staff returned Thursday morning, and teachers return to work today.

“I just thought it would be a good idea for students to get some air-conditioning, grab a book and just be in an alternate place other than home,” McCool said.

McCool and media specialist Kandee Bacon welcomed students and families into the media center, allowing students to check out books, use computers, charge electronic devices and color.

Bacon said McCool asked her about opening the media center to students and families.

“I told her, ‘I’ll be glad to,’” Bacon said. “Anytime I can get someone to read, it’s awesome.”

When the doors opened at 10 a.m., McCool greeted several families.

First-grader Joseph Baldwin, 6, picked out “Smoky Night,” a book by Eve Bunting.

“The cover looked interesting,” Baldwin said.

Fourth-grader Kadelynn Baylor, 9, grabbed “Night of the Living Worms,” a Sunshine State Reader for this year.

Baylor said this was her first Sunshine State Reader book this year and she intends to read all of them in her age group.

“I’m coming back (Friday),” Baylor told Bacon.

Onegin Knox, 7, a second-grader sat with his grandmother, Ann Wagner, and read a nonfiction book about the solar system.

Knox said he weathered the storm at a hotel room in St. Augustine with his mother, but returned home to San Mateo.

“This gives them a little sense of normalcy,” McCool said. “(For) us, too. We miss them a lot and seeing their faces.”

McCool said the school suffered a few leaks from the storm and lost a portion of the awning in front of the school.

McCool said Putnam County School District Board member Nikki Cummings dropped off snacks in the afternoon.

The media center will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m today.