Students from several public schools in Saipan returned to class Dec. 3, 2018, after being out of school for more than one month after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in late October.

Army Reserve Soldiers with the 9th Mission Support Command and Airmen with the 254th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (REDHORSE) and 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, along with CNMI Public School System leadership, welcomed students back on their first day after Yutu, a Category 5 storm, left their islands in ruins.

"Many of our Soldiers have been seen around our island assisting with the recovery efforts and what better way to welcome our students by having our Soldiers join our PSS staff welcome them back," said Glenn Muna, the commissioner for the CNMI Public School System.

There are around 450 service members assigned to Joint Task Group-Saipan, Task Force-West, in Saipan. Another group similar in size continues to help the neighboring island of Tinian.

"Students were excited to see our service members at their schools," Muna said. "Some students have asked if these were the same service members that have been out in various villages helping with the debris removal. Students have shared that they are grateful for our service members."

Approximately 3,400 students resumed classes today. Out of the 18 public schools in Saipan, nine returned to session. The other nine schools are scheduled to open on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.

According to a PSS official, G.T.C, Tanapag Middle School and Kagman Elementary School are still being used as shelters and are not ready for opening this week.

"The other schools ... sustained the most damages and repairs are still being made to ensure that the classrooms are ready for instructions," said Eric Magofna, an associate commissioner for PSS.

The PSS leadership was very excited and grateful for the partnership on the first day.

"It is truly a heart-warming experience to have our service members present in our schools this morning," Muna said. "I saw many familiar faces, as well met new faces from Guam. I am truly grateful for all the assistance and partnership we have."