Calcasieu Parish reopens 66 public schools after Hurricane Laura

Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura
The front of a building on Elm Street in Lake Charles is nearly destroyed by Hurricane Laura. (Photo by Wes Muller/LA Illuminator, Saturday Aug. 29, 2020.)

More than two months after Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that heavily damaged 74 Calcasieu Parish public schools, the school board has reopened 66 public schools.

“The reopening process is going really well,” Holly Holland, the public information officer for the Calcasieu Parish School Board, said. “Our students, faculty, and staff have all been through a lot, but everyone seems to be adjusting really well given the circumstances.”

The Aug. 27 storm struck Southwest Louisiana, causing $12 billion in damage to the area and shuttered 74 of the Calcasieu’s 76 public schools.

Holland said the school board has announced reopening dates for all but two of the 74 schools. “All of our schools received at least some sort of damage, with the overwhelming majority receiving extensive damage,” she said.

In September, Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus told the Louisiana Senate Education Committee that their plan was to reopen five to seven schools about every week beginning in September, which they have been on track to do. At the time, reopening was a major emphasis for the parish, as 48 percent of families were not living in the parish weeks after Laura struck, according to a survey of 11,041 parish families. But “97 percent of our 11,000 (families) said they’re coming back as soon as we’re open,” Brachhaus said at the time. “That tells us the will is to return.”

Holland said the school board has equipped almost all of their schools with exterior WiFi access points. This allows students to submit work if they are enrolled virtually using their credentials on whatever device they have to login. The parish also has WiFi buses that are stationed throughout the district that anyone in the community can drive to and access the internet, Holland said.