Published Online: September 16, 2008

Schools Still Shut for Thousands in Storm’s Wake

At least 20 school districts along or near the Texas Gulf Coast—including the 200,000-student Houston school district—were closed this week in the wake of Hurricane Ike, as efforts were under way to assess damage and begin the recovery process.

Some of the hardest-hit districts, such as the 8,000-student Galveston school district and the 1,500-student Anahuac district, faced extensive damage and were expected to be shut down for at least a month, if not longer.

“We’re still taking in reports from the field,” said DeEtta L. Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Most Texas school systems began the academic year the week of Aug. 25.

More than 2 million people in Texas lacked electricity as of early this week because of the storm, and nearly 37,000 Texans were in shelters. In fact, many public school facilities have been serving as shelters.

Children May Enroll Elsewhere

Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston on Sept. 13 as a Category 2 storm with winds reaching 110 miles per hour. Galveston officials guessed that it would be months before the island, which faced severe damage and flooding, could reopen, and warned that mosquito-borne diseases could begin to spread.

The number of deaths linked to the storm were estimated at 37 in Texas and eight other states. President Bush today visited several sites in Texas to survey the damage and offer his support.

Ms. Culbertson said the Texas agency has advised families that if they’ve been temporarily displaced and are from a school district expected to reopen by next week, they should not seek to enroll in another system.

But she emphasized that the final decision was up to individual families.

“If they’re going to be somewhere for an indefinite period of time, it’s best to get the child enrolled,” she said.

Barbara A. Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her organization already has been getting damage reports from school districts.

“There’s just damage all over,” she said. “The roof was peeled back on the gym in Deer Park” school district, which has about 12,000 students and is east of Houston, she said. “In Anahuac [northeast of Galveston] all of their campuses were damaged.”

Ms. Williams said it was too soon to assess the extent of damage to school facilities around the state.

“I don’t know that anyone has a dollar amount on this yet,” she said.

Louisiana and Indiana Affected

The storm’s impact was not limited to Texas. In Louisiana, more than 20 public schools across seven school systems were closed for part or all of this week, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. Public schools in New Orleans, however, were open on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, dozens of schools were closed Monday because of storm damage. The remnants of Hurricane Ike caused heavy rains and flooding in parts of northwestern Indiana over the weekend, while strong winds knocked power out in other areas across the state. Some of those districts might have to reschedule important statewide testing slated for later this month.

Vol. 28, Issue 05

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