School Climate & Safety

Katrina’s Castaways

By Debra Viadero — January 10, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Hurricane Katrina, the disastrous storm that struck the Gulf Coast in late August, displaced an estimated 1 million people. Historians are already calling the resulting exodus of families from hard-hit coastal communities in Louisiana and Mississippi the greatest mass migration in the United States since the Civil War.

The diaspora extended north to Alaska and east to the Atlantic coast. Families moved because they needed shelter and jobs, of course, but a desire to get their children’s schooling back on track was also a motivating force.

“I didn’t really want my children to miss a month of school,” one mother from the New Orleans area told Education Week. “The driving force through this whole thing has been to try to keep some normalcy in their lives.”

Katrina’s Castaways
A Special Bond
Venturing Back Home
Miles Apart

What follows is a look at the experiences of six students and their families who were part of that exodus. Eighth grader Holly Sweeney and her family are from Waveland, Miss. The Midura children—Redding, Justis, and Sophie—come from New Orleans. So, too, do Dalyn Jones and Anthea Fields, both of them high school freshmen.

They came from a private school, a charter school, a regular public school, and a magnet school. But they all ended up in public schools within an hour’s drive of the nation’s capital.

Schondra Sweeney, left, examines paintings from her home studio in Waveland, Miss., with daughter Holly, center, at their Arlington, Va., apartment. Sweeney's older daughter, Daniella, right, has continued to live in their home state since Hurricane Katrina seperated the family.

In districts, such as the Houston school system, that have seen a heavy influx of Gulf Coast families, the presence of so many displaced students has sometimes sparked tensions. The students profiled here experienced smoother transitions, partly because they came in smaller numbers. Virginia’s 18,500-student Arlington County school district, for instance, easily absorbed the 40 Katrina survivors who showed up on its doorstep.

The question now is how many of these migrating students have moved for good. Will they return home at the next break, wait until the school year ends, or never go back? All that’s certain as 2006 begins is the uncertainty.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion This Is What Happens to a Student’s Brain When Exposed to Gun Violence
Traumatized and hypervigilant brains cannot learn effectively, write a behavioral neuroscientist and a school psychologist.
Amanda M. Dettmer & Tammy L. Hughes
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of a lone figure standing in a sea of bullets
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Jorm Sangsorn/iStock; Getty images
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center What Would Make Schools Safer? Here's What Educators Say
Respondents to a national survey of educators said measures like red flag laws, more school counselors are key to any school safety law.
7 min read
Photograph of crime scene tape and school.
F.Sheehan/Education Week and Getty
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center 'The World Feels Less Stable': Educators' Sense of School Safety Right Now
6 in 10 educators said a mass shooting by a student or outsider was their biggest source of fear.
7 min read
Woman standing on a paper boat with a tsunami wave approaching.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Texas Top Cop: Uvalde Police Could Have Ended Rampage Early On
The head of the Texas state police pronounced the law enforcement response an “abject failure.”
5 min read
FILE - Law enforcement, and other first responders, gather outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting, on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Law enforcement authorities had enough officers on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, the Texas public safety chief testified Tuesday, June 21 pronouncing the police response an “abject failure.”(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)