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Home Front Command had hoped for a calmer reopening of schools in the south after they were closed for around two weeks due to rocket attacks. The return of Be'er Sheva's 11th and 12th graders yesterday morning was accompanied by two Grad rocket attacks from Gaza.

In Sderot a Qassam exploded at 1 P.M., when some children were heading home. In Ashdod, where only high schools reopened, a Grad fell near an empty kindergarten and school. The kindergarten sustained damage and 10 people were treated for shock.

Between 70 percent and 85 percent of Be'er Sheva's 11th and 12th graders returned to school. In Sderot, where only schools with spaces reinforced against rockets were reopened, between 70 percent and 80 percent of the children showed up. Only 50 percent to 60 percent of the students at the town's Sapir College were on campus. Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva will reopen only tomorrow, partially, according to a schedule on the university's Web site.

As at many other southern schools, the principal of Sderot's Alon Mada'im elementary school, Liora Fema, was accompanied by another principal - Major Arik Davidi of Home Front Command. They received the students together, many of whom are considered to be suffering from stress. Although Davidi spoke very little, his presence seemed to reassure the children and especially the parents who accompanied them.

Fema hugged and kissed each child who came through the gate. She says she is now dealing more with security and calming down students than with education. She has been preparing for the return to school since last Thursday, when worried parents received a phone call from her meant to ease their nerves.

Under the desk

Yesterday during first period, when the teachers conducted a drill ahead of a possible Color Red alert, the kids showed that not only members of Home Front Command knew what to do. Over the past few years they have spent dozens of hours under their desks when the alarm sounded.

"We are a little scared, but it's fun to go back to school and see our friends together," a student said. Fema moved quickly between classrooms, checking which students had come, phoning those who were absent and sending the school psychologist to speak to children suffering from stress.

When the teachers handed her their attendence sheets, she sighed in relief when she saw that more than 70 percent of the kids were present - the school's victory and hers over the Qassams. Nevertheless, many parents spent the school day with their children; others called them every hour.

Shortly before the first day back ended, a Color Red alert sounded throughout the city. This promises that today the students, Fema and Davidi will begin everything all over again.