Rebounding From Catastrophe

Crises can affect any school, district, college or university. But rarely does an event have such disastrous consequences that it practically wipes out an entire community.

Such was the result of Hurricane Katrina. Roughly two years ago, the storm and subsequent flooding wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast — and, in particular, the New Orleans area.

One of the hardest-hit communities was Orleans Parish and its school system. As a result of the hurricane, the 65,000-student school district was decimated — leaving a skeleton enrollment and close to $1 billion in damage to education facilities.

But recovery in New Orleans and other communities impacted by Katrina is moving forward. As this month's cover story illustrates, while often frustratingly slow and difficult, school districts and colleges are working diligently to rebound from the catastrophe.

The numbers are a stark reminder of the task ahead. As of September, about 34,000 students were attending public schools in New Orleans — a little more than half of pre-Katrina enrollment. Enrollment at the state's colleges and universities initially dropped to 177,230 from 214,744 after Katrina. While still down from pre-hurricane levels, enrollment has rebounded to about 197,000.

Recovery is not coming without its challenges. Funding, attendance and facilities issues are prevalent. In the state-run Recovery School District, the various challenges are being met with ambitious goals. Among them: extending the school day and year for struggling students; creating small-scale alternative schools for expelled students; establishing paid work study for every high-school senior; and better-trained police officers.

A common thread among all of those involved in the rebuilding effort is the hope that revitalized schools will be the impetus to bring back to the area displaced students and families, further accelerating recovery and re-establishing communities to what they once were.

WEB 101

Are you on information overload?

Where do you get your daily news? From your newspaper, the radio or via the hundreds of news releases that clutter your e-mail inbox every morning?

Wouldn't it be great to find a place that gives you the rundown of education and facilities news — the news that affects your job — all in one place?

Check out's Daily Headlines. Cheap (free) and easy to find! Just click on our homepage in the upper right corner, and you'll find all the day's news (written as it happens or as soon as we hear about it) in an easy format. Either read our summary, or click on the actual source to read the entire article. You'll find it's a timesaver.

Better yet, while you're there, check out Schoolhouse Beat — The Blog and comment on some of the headlines that you have been reading. We want to hear from you!
Susan Lustig

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