School Choice & Charters

Private-Sector Students Hit by Disaster Finding Opportunities in New Schools

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 13, 2005 3 min read

Educators in private schools reached out last week to offer seats in schools to students uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. They tended to give top priority to helping students from schools that looked most like their own.

Many administrators waived tuition for a semester or the whole year for students affected by the hurricane, and some extended their school days to accommodate them.

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Some 55,500 students from religious and other private schools are believed to be displaced, including the 49,500 children who attended about 100 Roman Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Members of the National Association of Independent Schools, based in Washington, and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, organized to help match up some 6,000 students who had been attending New Orleans’ 11 independent schools with similar schools.

Sister Mary Michaeline, the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, worked with the Rev. William Maestri, the superintendent of schools for the New Orleans Archdiocese, to help find places for displaced students who had been attending Catholic schools.

In addition, schools run by several Catholic religious orders welcomed students who had attended schools run by the same orders.

Accounting for Students

Heads of private schools used the Internet and other networks last week to figure out where their students had relocated.

By the middle of last week, Thomas W. Price, the headmaster of the Isidore Newman School, one of New Orleans’ most prominent private schools, said he’d accounted for about two-thirds of the school’s 1,075 students. Most are staying in Baton Rouge, Dallas, or Houston, he said.

Isidore Newman’s facilities received only minor damage, Mr. Price said, and he expects to reopen in January. But it’s anyone’s guess, he said, how many students will return to New Orleans at that time. Meanwhile, most Isidore Newman students are enrolling in other private schools.

One student started school soon after Labor Day at the 664-student Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., with its $25,000 tuition waived for the year.

Mr. Price said that most independent schools have waived tuition for displaced students, but such schools in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., have not.

“There are schools in other areas that are waiving tuition, but I doubt they are needing to provide services for the large number of students we are having to in Baton Rouge,” said Corrie Kiesel, the public relations director for the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, which will enroll a maximum of 145 displaced students in its day school, which had 1,000 students before the hurricane.

The school also plans to start a night shift for displaced students; it already has 300 applications. It’s charging tuition of $8,400 to $11,000, depending on the grade.

‘Deluged by Calls’

A few New England boarding schools have sent admissions officers to Houston—a prime destination for evacuees—to interview students for possible placement.

“As soon as the devastation of the hurricane became known, our office was deluged by phone calls,” said Jane Fried, the dean of admissions for Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., who traveled to Houston to meet with students.

Phillips Academy enrolled 19 students affected by the hurricane. The $33,000 annual tuition, which includes room and board, won’t be waived, but 70 percent of those students will be getting some financial aid, she said.

Five of the 19 students are from public schools. Another five are from Isidore Newman.

Meanwhile, Gene Tullier, the principal of Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, which had 1,500 students before the hurricane, prepared to reopen his school on the campus of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge.

The Brothers of the Sacred Heart ran Brother Martin High and also operate Catholic High. The reopened Brother Martin will operate from 3:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and will give top priority to its former students and those of another Louisiana school run by the same religious order.

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston has enrolled 350 students displaced from the Jesuit High School of New Orleans for a late-afternoon shift on the Houston campus. Strake Jesuit waived tuition for displaced students for the semester.

A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2005 edition of Education Week as Private-Sector Students Hit by Disaster Finding Opportunities in New Schools

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