Louisiana Schools Struggle to Reopen After Hurricane Ida’s Visit

Families have lost everything, yet, uppermost in their minds is, they want their children to return to school.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the schools for about a year and a half.  At least 169,000 Louisiana children are out of class again, thanks to Hurricane Ida.

“We were brimming with optimism and confident that we were going to defeat COVID, confident we were on a better path. And now we’ve got another setback,” says Jarod Martin, superintendent of schools in the hard-hit Lafourche Parish, southwest of New Orleans.

Though many children spent most or all of last school year back in class, some children remained in virtual programs and arrived back in class last month for the first time since the shutdowns began. The return did not go smoothly, with nearly 7,000 infections of students and teachers reported in the opening weeks. This led to more quarantines, more shutdowns, and more disruptions.

The latest state standardized test scores, released in August, showed a 5% drop in proficiency among students across Louisiana. This drop was blamed largely on disruptions from COVID-19. Younger and poorer children fared worst, as did members of minority groups and those with English as a second language.

The state’s education superintendent, Cade Brumley, acknowledged that students “did lose a little bit” and that Ida dealt another blow. A quarter-million students’ schools remained shuttered Friday, but classes for 81,000 children were to reopen Monday, according to the education department. Brumley said the rest would likely be back in a matter of weeks.

“We need to get those kids back with us as soon as we possibly can,” he said

But it’s going to require more than meets the eyes. In the most devastated areas, returning to class requires not only schools to be repaired or temporary classrooms to be set up, but for students and staff scattered around the country to come back to Louisiana. That means they must have homes with electricity and running water. Buses also have to run, and cafeterias must be stocked with food and people to serve it, and so on.

So families are faced not only with combating the coronavirus, but with how to get their children back in school in full swing.

-Ella Breedlove