Area Schools Reopen After Massive Texas Wildfire

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Eric Gay / AP

The fire-ravaged trees of central Texas

The worst single wildfire in Texas state history has charred tens of thousands of acres. But a glimmer of progress occurred Monday, when students returned to school in the county that suffered some of the worst destruction.

As firefighters continue to contain and subdue the wind-driven wildfires, schools reopened in Bastrop, Texas, an area 25 miles east of Austin. Students, some still homeless and owning only the clothes on their backs, were picked up from motels where their displaced families now reside, and were provided meals because many central Texans are without kitchens, power or electricity.

(PHOTOS: Wildfire Burns Across Central Texas)

The Bastrop Independent School District serves Bastrop, Cedar Creek, Red Rock, Rockne and Paige, according to the Houston Chronicle. The district is also providing resources and aid in the areas of counseling, clothing, food and missing pets.

Despite chaotic conditions and fire-related health problems, only 24 of the school’s 435 students (kindergarten to fourth grade) were absent on Monday. District-wide, only 6% of students were absent, spokesman Donald Williams told the AP.

Almost 200 wildfires spread after winds whipped up by Tropical Storm Lee tore through the drought-stricken state, destroying more than 1,500 homes (this figure is expected to rise). In Bastrop alone, the miles-wide blaze scorched more than 34,000 acres.

On Friday, the federal government declared Texas a disaster area.

MORE: WATCH: 500 Homes Torched in Texas Wildfire

Kai Ma is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.