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Going To Sugar Cane Academy

New Orleans Schools
CBS/The Early Show
Residents of hurricane-ravaged New Orleans are still adjusting to life after Katrina. Things are a long way from normal, but there are some encouraging signs.

As she reads her hurricane journal to CBS News correspondent Joie Chen, Cecilia Tisserand tells the story of her encounter with Katrina the way only a 7-year-old can.

"I packed up my stuff and I walked sadly out the door with my cat," she says.

Cecilia didn't want to go. She and her brother Miles had been through it before.

"I hate hurricanes because there is no light," Cecilia says. "I also don't like hurricanes because there is no school."

Robert Mills Lusher elementary school in uptown New Orleans is closed. It took a beating in the storm and the community around it scattered.

Somehow, a handful of Lusher families found each other in New Iberia, a small town three hours away. A dozen children in all showed up. Then someone found Mr. Raynaud, a favorite first grade teacher from Lusher.

It was clear no one would be home soon, and parents began to hear the same questions.

"When can I go back to school? When can I see my friends?" Kiki Huston says her children asked often.

With Lusher sidelined for months, the kids and their families have created a temporary school. Making study space in an accountant's office, brightening the dark hall with art, and giving it a name: Sugar Cane Academy.

"When I said that name everyone was like, 'Yeah, let's do that,' " says student Olivia Huston.

What Sugar Cane Academy lacks in space and other extras, it more than makes up for in spirit. Raynaud teaches there. Miss Meghan and a couple others from Lusher pitch in, too.

It helps the children put aside the terrible lesson Katrina taught them: how quickly their young lives can be torn apart.

Cecilia's father, Michael Tisserand says, "The first e-mail that Mitzi, her friend, had sent to Cecilia was, 'I thought you had died.' And she wrote back, 'No, we didn't die. We just evacuated.' "

Sometimes it seems that something did die in the evacuation. Some families will move away. Some friendships will now be only by e-mail.

The kids who go back will find New Orleans forever changed. But they can hang on to this moment in this faraway place, when they proved even a hurricane couldn't tear their community apart.