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Back-to-School After Hurricane Katrina

The New Orleans School District Makes Changes and Adjustments

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Hurricane Katrina's Devastation Apparent
U.S. Coast Guard/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Contributed by Associate Writer Nicole Harms

It has been a year since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As children around the country are out buying their school supplies, what will the children affected by Katrina be doing? How did Hurricane Katrina affect the schools of New Orleans and the other areas that were affected?

As a result of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans alone, 110 out of 126 public schools were completely destroyed. The children who survived the storm were displaced to other states for the rest of the school year. It is estimated that close to 400,000 students from Katrina-ravaged areas had to move in order to attend school.

Around the country, school children, churches, PTAs, and other organizations have had school supply drives to help replenish the schools and students who were affected by Katrina. The Federal government has donated a substantial amount of money specifically for the cause of rebuilding post-Katrina schools.

After a year, efforts have begun to rebuild in New Orleans and the other surrounding areas, but significant struggles face these schools. First, many of the students who were displaced have not returned, so there are fewer students to teach. The same goes for the staff of these schools. Many people had their homes completely destroyed, and have no intention of returning to the area.

There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, though. On Monday, August 7, eight public schools in New Orleans opened. The city is attempting to transform the traditionally poor public schools in this area as they rebuild. With those eight schools, 4,000 students can now return to class in their hometown.

There are forty schools scheduled to open in September, which will provide for 30,000 more students. The school district had 60,000 students before Hurricane Katrina hit.

What will school be like for these kids? New buildings and materials may serve to make the schools better than they were before the storm, but no doubt children will be reminded every day of the devastation they just lived through. As they go to school without friends who are no longer in the city due to the effects of the storm, they will always be reminded of the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

The schools have had trouble finding enough teachers for the classrooms. Not only were students displaced by the storm, but most of the teachers were evacuated as well. Many of these have chosen not to return, finding jobs elsewhere. The lack of qualified teachers puts the re-opening date for some schools in limbo.

Students who have returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina can attend any school they choose, no matter where they are living. This is part of an effort to improve the district. By giving parents the chance to choose schools, officials believe they will force all schools to improve in order to draw post-Katrina students.

Teachers and staff of these post-Katrina schools will not only be teaching academics to their students, but also dealing with the continuing emotional trauma these students are facing. Nearly all of their students have lost someone they knew and loved as a result of Hurricane Katrina. This creates a unique atmosphere for these teachers.

This year for New Orleans schools will be a year of catching up. Students who missed large portions of last years school year will need remedial instruction. All educational records were lost to Katrina, so officials will have to begin new records for every student.

While the road ahead for post-Katrina schools is a long one, the officials and staff of the newly opened schools are optimistic. They have made great strides in one years time, and have proven the depth of the human spirit. As children continue to return to New Orleans and the surrounding areas, there will be schools with open doors ready for them!

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