Student Well-Being

Many Seats Still Empty as Schools Outside New Orleans Reopen

October 05, 2005 2 min read

Life in this community near New Orleans took an important step toward returning to normal this week, as students filed into Bonnabel High School and 78 other Jefferson Parish public schools for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit in late August.

And yet, normal seemed a long way off. Less than half the pre-storm student population showed up at Bonnabel High the first day. More than 150 state and local police officers from New Jersey helping with local relief efforts were still camped out in the school gymnasium. Also, one entire building on the campus, and sections of another, remained off-limits because of extensive storm damage.

Jefferson Parish, which a few weeks earlier was expecting just half of the district’s schools to be ready by the Oct. 3 reopening, instead managed to resume classes at all but six schools.

An uprooted tree remains in the courtyard outside Bonnabel High School in Kenner, La., while students gather during their lunch period on their first day back to school since Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast.

“Day one is going pretty good,” Ray Ferrand, the principal of Bonnabel High School, said on Oct. 3. “I’ve visited most of the classrooms. The kids are … kind of anxious to get back with their lives, but not quite sure how to get there.”

He added, “Some of them have lost their homes, some have lost all their clothes.”

Mr. Ferrand said that 664 students attended the school Oct, 3, down from about 1,500 before the storm. He said that, given the circumstances, he was pleased with that figure, and predicted it would climb steadily.

He noted that it wasn’t until several days before reopening that the news media began to report that his school was among those that would open, so that many families might not have gotten word.

‘Life-Altering Event’

On Oct. 3, with three schools not yet reporting, 27,122 students came to district schools, out of an estimated pre-Katrina enrollment of 49,000, said Jeff Nowakowski, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish system. The next day the figure had risen to 28,955, not counting the three schools whose enrollment figures were still unavailable on Oct. 5. Neither figure includes preschoolers.

“Life as we know it will never be the same,” teacher Jo-Ann G. Ordoyne told students in a Monday morning history class at Bonnabel. “This is a life-altering event.”

Ms. Ordoyne’s class was meeting in a different room than usual. Her regular classroom was in a building where much of the roof had been ripped off by Hurricane Katrina, and where the heavy rains caused extensive damage.

She gave the students a chance to share some of their experiences over the past five weeks. Students evacuated to all parts of the country: Houston, Dallas, South Carolina, Alabama, New Mexico, and many more places.

“As we talked about the Great Depression in history, that was not your reference, so you didn’t know the sacrifices that that generation made,” she told students. “You didn’t realize how strong a character it took to pull together to rebuild after the Great Depression.”

She continued, “Now, it has happened to you. This is your catastrophe. And as you grow older, … you’ll talk about this for years to come, and you’ll tell people, ‘You haven’t experienced anything. I survived
Katrina.’ ”

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
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.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

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

Student Well-Being Infographic Statistics on School Sports: How Many Students Play Sports? Which Sports Do They Play?
Browse key data on school sports, including how often girls and boys are participating and which ones they are choosing to play.
2 min read
Sports balls overlayed with data charts.
Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being When Teachers and School Counselors Become Informal Mentors, Students Thrive
New research shows that informal school-based mentorships lead to academic success. But not all students have equal access to mentors.
6 min read
Image of an adult and student talking as they walk down a school hallway.
kali9/E+
Student Well-Being CDC Calls for Return to Universal Masking in Schools
Reversing a decision it made earlier this month, the federal agency said even vaccinated students and adults should wear face coverings.
6 min read
White Plains High School students walk between classes, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in White Plains, N.Y.
Students walk between classes at White Plains High School in White Plains, N.Y., earlier this year.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Here's One Way to Keep School Buses Safe During the Pandemic
With nearly all students expected to return to campus in the fall, districts will face big challenges transporting large groups safely.
2 min read
Elementary school students sit on board a school bus after attending in-person classes at school in Wheeling, Ill., on Nov. 19, 2020. Keeping masks on and windows open can reduce the risk of COVID-19, even when students cannot keep distant, new research suggests.
Elementary school students wearing masks sit on board a school bus after attending in-person classes in Wheeling, Ill., last November.
Nam Y. Huh/AP