The students have not been to school since Sept. 15, the day before Hurricane Floyd drenched the area with 20 inches of rain, causing the worst flooding in memory.
Monday, buses rolled throughout the county, bringing students to their classrooms. The school bell rang an hour later than usual, however, because some of the rural roads are still in bad shape.
Mike Lutz, assistant principal at Tarboro High School, estimated 50 to 60 percent of the students came back to school Monday. The school gym still serves as a shelter to more than 100 people.
Volunteers worked through the weekend to ready classrooms. Floyd's flood waters damaged many of the schools in the county and destroyed two.
Students at Princeville Montessori and Patillo Elementary Schools are expected to return in a week after new trailers are built.
"We want the schools to be shining like a new dime. These kids have gone through a lot and we want them coming in knowing that everything is OK and that the world is still going around," schools spokeswoman Diane LeFiles said Sunday.
The Tar River crested in Tarboro on Sunday about eight feet above flood stage. A little over a week after Floyd engulfed the region in flood waters, another eight inches of rain fell, unleashing another round of flooding.
The cleanup continued for flood victims throughout the region. In Princeville, engulfed by the Tar River on Sept. 17, some of the town's 1,900 residents spent Sunday picking through their ruined homes.
At one point, brown, swirling water stood 20 feet deep near the town hall. The water destroyed half of the town's 800 homes and wiped out 33 businesses and three churches. Princeville was founded by ex-slaves after the Civil War. From staff and wire reports