Hurricane Ida spares most Louisiana public schools of significant damage

Majority of schools will be able to return as soon as they have the resources, state superintendent says

By: - September 3, 2021 4:16 pm

School systems from Central and North Louisiana are delivering water to school systems in Southeast Louisiana “who indicated that that’s a need” to help get campuses shuttered by Hurricane Ida open. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Virtual learning, classes in “alternative facilities” on-campus or continuing their education in a different school in a different part of the state are among the options for Louisiana students whose schools suffered significant structural damage during Hurricane Ida last weekend, state Superintendent Cade Brumley said.

In their initial estimate of the damage statewide caused by Ida — a category 4 storm that ravaged Southeast Louisiana — Brumley said only “a couple dozen schools” endured significant structural damage.

The overwhelming majority of schools affected by Ida “are in a position where — as soon as they have power and water and staff and diesel and commodities for the cafeteria — they’ll be able to have school,” he said.

Some areas of southeastern Louisiana had catastrophic damage from the powerful storm, including St. John the Baptist Parish, which was inundated with floodwater; parts of lower Jefferson Parish, including Grand Isle and Jean Lafitte; and Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

“(The Louisiana Department of Education) is encouraging families who are unable to return to their previous school to enroll as soon as possible in the school system nearest to them,” Matt Johnson, a spokesperson for LDOE, said in a press release Friday afternoon.

After working through the COVID-19 pandemic to educate students, Brumley said, “it’s just most unfortunate that we’re facing yet another obstacle in terms of trying to best serve our kids.”

The education department has been working with school system leaders in Southeast Louisiana to provide for “basic needs in terms of health and safety.” For example, Brumley said school systems from Central and North Louisiana are delivering water to school systems in Southeast Louisiana “who indicated that that’s a need.”

Multiple school systems in Southeast Louisiana indicated that they don’t yet have a timeline for when students can return to school or how the academic calendar will be adjusted.

Meredith Mendez, communications director for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, said 28 of their 55 schools have restored their power, but “at this time, we are not revising our calendar because we are hopeful the state will provide waivers to the required instructional seat time given the widespread damage across the state.”

Brumley said “it’s too early” to make decisions about waiving required instructional minutes, but is “hopeful that systems would be able to make calendar adjustments so that the children could get the instructional minutes that they need and deserve.”

“We’re coming off a couple of years of interrupted learning due to the global pandemic,” he said. “So we need to be squeezing in time as much as we possibly can with our kids.”

Brumley said he hopes to see that same level of commitment to meeting educational requirements across the state.

St. Tammany will give their students and faculty a three-day notice before reopening “to prepare to return.”

The latest updates from Lafourche, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne and Plaquemines parish school systems all say that they’re still in the process of assessing damages and further updates will be announced on their social media pages.

Between Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, 70,365 of 71,890 — or 97 percent — of residents don’t have power. Most are still without running water as well.

Over 97 percent — or 12,323 of 12,631 — of Plaquemines Parish residents and 98 percent — or 19,371 of 19,752 — of St. John the Baptist Parish residents are still without power, according to poweroutage.us.

Tangipahoa and Washington parishes haven’t updated their social media pages or websites since Hurricane Ida and didn’t respond to multiple emails seeking comment.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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