In Earthquake Aftermath, It's Uncertain When Kids In Mexico Will Return To School
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The death toll from last week's earthquake in Mexico has risen to 337, with nearly 200 of the dead in Mexico City. More than a week later, Mexico City businesses are reopening, and schoolchildren are beginning to return to classes, although slowly. Only about 10 percent of the capital's schools have gotten the go-ahead to open.
NPR's Carrie Kahn reports that's not sitting well with many parents, but teenagers helping with the rescue effort are glad to have more time.
MARIA DE LOURDES GARCIA: (Speaking Spanish).
ANA LILIA MONTES: (Speaking Spanish).
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: At the Alberto Correa school in the hard-hit Roma Norte neighborhood, caretaker Maria de Lourdes Garcia opens the gate and tells yet another anxious parent she doesn't know when it will reopen. Parent Ana Lilia Montes leaves frustrated.
MONTES: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "There is just so much uncertainty now. It's so stressful," says Montes. Her son is in the second grade here. She works around the corner in a bank, but the building is heavily damaged and she's been transferred to another branch across town. She asked, should she put her son in a school by her new job, or wait for this one to reopen?
MONTES: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "Obviously, we're all trying to get back to normal, but I just don't know how or when that will happen," she says. School caretaker Garcia wants things to get back to normal, too, but she says authorities aren't ready yet to open the school. Yesterday, she showed the school's classroom and other structures to yet another team of inspectors - two engineers from the Boston-based firm AIR Worldwide.
GARCIA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: Really, she tells them, the school wasn't damaged at all. In the 1985 Mexico City quake, the school, then four stories tall, completely collapsed. But it was rebuilt a year later with reinforced steel beams that you can see coming out of every wall and at only two stories tall. She then shows engineer Alvaro Farias one of the most important post-'85 additions at the back end of the school's play yard.
So can you tell me what she's just pointed to you?
ALVARO FARIAS: That's the seismometer, so there's a little machine underneath, probably a couple meters down on the fence, that is measuring the movement of the ground.
KAHN: The cover to the machine is locked, but Farias says all its readings go directly online to a public website.
FARIAS: So this is great because it means that we know how hard the ground was shaking here, and we can see how the structures performed. If there's no damage, it tell us, well, they're doing pretty well for these accelerations.
KAHN: All that data, Farias says, will help the city decide whether it needs to strengthen building codes and to what level. Unfortunately, a 15-story building in front of the school didn't fare that well and is cordoned off with yellow caution tape. The school won't be able to open until that building is either determined safe or demolished.
As of yesterday, less than 10 percent of the city's nearly 9,000 schools were open for business, despite many more than that being inspected and certified safe. School administrators have spent several frustrating days in line at a federal education office waiting to get a final bureaucratic stamp on their inspection certificates.
High school freshmen Dariana Diaz says she's glad her school hasn't opened yet. She's around the corner at the site of a collapsed building, handing out plates of rice, mole and chicken to rescue workers and volunteers.
DARIANA DIAZ: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "It's better they really check out the buildings well," she says, although she admits to being a little worried about falling further behind in her classwork. Twenty-year-old law student Eduardo Osorio says his university is open, but he'll keep coming down here and helping out between classes.
EDUARDO OSORIO: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "I may not be able to help as much as an engineer or an architect, but I want to do something. This is our generation's moment," he says, "and it's our duty." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.