School & District Management

Quarter of a Million Students Face New Hurdles in Wake of Hurricane Ida

By Will Sentell, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. — September 01, 2021 2 min read
Children try to protect themselves from the rain at the end of the school day as residents prepare for Hurricane Ida on Aug. 27, 2021, in New Orleans.
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After months of classroom turmoil sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, up to 250,000 public school students now face new struggles triggered by Hurricane Ida.

“We have a challenge seemingly every other day,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said Tuesday.

Students who attend schools in the 25 parishes declared disaster areas make up more than one-third of the nearly 700,000 children enrolled in Louisiana public schools.

Less than three weeks ago Brumley announced a $132 million plan to recover learning loss students suffered during the tumultuous 2020-2021 school year.

The school calendar was marked by stops and starts, both in-person and virtual learning and about three of every four students back in classrooms when instruction ended in May.

Key test scores from springtime exams fell in math, English, science and social studies.

Brumley on Aug. 11 announced what he called the “Louisiana Comeback” campaign that includes tutoring, summer school and reconnecting students and their families with schools.

“A ton of momentum that we had, we are going to have to rebuild it again,” he said.

From left to right, Erica Bordreaux, Waylon Bordreaux, Nicholas Beltier, and Hank Bordreaux sit on the floor in an emergency shelter set up inside of Thibodaux High School in Thibodaux, La. on Aug. 30, 2021, where they stayed during Hurricane Ida.

Most schools were only a few weeks into the new year when Hurricane Ida arrived on Aug. 29.

Now local superintendents in all 25 school districts most impacted by the hurricane are assessing damages, checking insurance coverage and possible aid from FEMA.

No figure is available on what the damages total.

Officials in the Jefferson Parish School District, the largest in the state, reported a handful of schools suffered significant roof damage.

Orleans Parish School District officials are in the early stages of checking for damages.

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Jack Fitzgerald, 14, an 8th grader at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas, plays Rocket League at home this week when school was cancelled because of icy weather and widespread power outages. Jack's family had to stay with friends briefly when their home lost power and indoor temperatures plunged.
Jack Fitzgerald, 14, an 8th grader at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas, plays Rocket League at home this week when school was cancelled because of icy weather and widespread power outages. Jack's family had to stay with friends briefly when their home lost power and indoor temperatures plunged.
Courtesy of Ginny Goldman

Leaders of the East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes school districts announced Tuesday schools will remain closed through Labor Day.

Other school systems are expected to do the same.

When classes will resume is unclear.

“Some people might say why can’t these systems just say when school will begin,” Brumley said. “That is difficult. We don’t have clarity in terms of power restoration.”

“Even if the power was flipped back on tomorrow there is still a ton of work that has to be done,” said Brumley, former superintendent of the Jefferson Parish School District.

“Then you have staff that evacuated, and so it is going to take a few days,” he said.

“Once the power comes back on it is really important that you do a walk through the school and perimeter to make sure those schools are safe.”

Brumley said plans for students to make up for lost learning are even more relevant amid the upheaval triggered by the hurricane.

He said it is a good idea for local school leaders to let families know the earliest possible date to resume classes.

Copyright (c) 2021, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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