RESERVE, La. -- Instead of students, East St. John High School in Reserve is now filled with a small army of disaster recovery workers, drying out the buildings and repairing what was damaged during Hurricane Isaac three weeks ago.
Most of the campus flooded for more than a week.
"That inundated the sheet rock," said ESJ Principal Patricia Triche. "They had to cut up like up to 4 feet of the sheet rock in the entire school. Where the field house and the band was, the water water was deeper back there. The field house had like 3 feet of water."
Meanwhile, teachers and a handful of students are preparing the now-vacant Leon Godchaux school on River Road to be the temporary home of the East St. John Wildcats.
"I think about the blessings that we had to have a school here and to live in a community where we have so many people coming together," said Triche.
Triche took us on a tour of the school where Wildcat paws now line the walls and new school themed murals will welcome students on their first day of classes there on Monday.
"I feel like a lot of my artwork was probably destroyed in the flood and so I got to come here and make more artwork," said senior Haley Beck as she filled in the lines of her mural. "They got school spirit."
Two classrooms are already occupied by the football team reviewing game footage.
"It's exciting to come back to school," said junior defensive end Charlie Payne. "We ready to come back to school, but we got to keep our mind focused on football."
"At first we were all worried about each other during the storm, but when we all got back together, it brought us closer," said senior defensive back Darren Darensburg. "I'm ready. I'm ready to go back to school."
"We finally have a place to watch film for the first time in three weeks, which is good," said ESJ Head Coach Phil Banko. "The best thing right now is we're getting back to some sort of normalcy."
Students will return in two shifts: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
"I'm looking forward to all of our students coming back," said Triche. "We're a family. We're doing everything we can to get everything back up and running."
"This is our new home," Banko said. "We are grateful that the people at Leon Godchaux offered this too us because we need this."
While a lot of work still needs to be done before students and faculty can come back to the East St. John High School building, they now hope to return after the Christmas break.