Hundreds of children return to Hawke's Bay and Gisborne schools for first time since Cyclone Gabrielle

Hundreds of children cut off from their schools across Hawke's Bay and Gisborne returned to school on Monday.

Almost two weeks after Cyclone Gabrielle blasted the East Coast, children heading to Puketapu School west of Napier used inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) to cross the Mangaone River, where the bridge was washed away.

Rissington mother of three Christina Kiwara said of her children: "One was excited, one was very anxious to get back to school. It's a bit of normality for them as well, quite a rigmarole to get them here though and get them all over the river."

A makeshift bridge made of pipes was meant to reconnect communities like Rissington, Puketitiri and Patoka with Napier, but it had to be dismantled ahead of heavy rain at the weekend.

So it's back to plan A, the IRBs.

Patoka School acting principal Madelene Field was among those using the boat to access Patoka and open her school for its first full week back since the flooding.

"Today is a really good day!" she told Newshub.

Two generators and an electrician flown in by the Ministry of Education made opening possible.

Five-year-old Zoe Tylee, one of 44 pupils at Patoka School, had just two wishes as she started her first-ever full week at the small country school.

"Having candy floss in my lunch box - and I wish the bridges [were] being fixed!"

Field said school is a safe place for children, a nurturing environment after the devastation many have witnessed.

"They don't really talk about it, but I think a lot of them have seen what their parents have been through and what the farms look like right now. For a lot of parents that causes stress."

Parent and local vet Sally Newall said her boys are "pretty robust" but she worries stress in local families is high and down the track that may mean some children struggle.

"That filters through to the kids so they are doing alright but there probably will be some long-term, this is going to go on for months - it's not a quick fix."

The Ministry of Education says 25 schools in the Hawke's Bay/Tairāwhiti region remain closed, affecting 4047 pupils. More than 50 early learning centres remain closed, affecting 1286 children. 

The Ministry of Education says support will be offered to all of those requiring counselling services for children battling anxiety and uncertainty at home.

Field said her school intends to use every tool at its disposal to help children who need it.

On the other side of the Napier-Taupō road, Te Pohue children unable to get to their school have made it into Taupō for a hot shower and a mini getaway.

"We're just trying to get the kids together to socialise, the main priority is them getting out and seeing everyone and keeping up with the learning where we can," said Te Pohue teacher Charlotte Carrington.

Community organisations like Kids Greening Taupō have showered the group with learning packs and "pick-me-ups" after two weeks of isolation at home.

"We put the call out and we've had so many generous donations come in from our community, everyone in Taupō is keen to help out!" said coordinator Rachel Thompson.

Offers of help are coming in thick and fast, settling children back in at school - that may take a lot longer.