At least 53 schools in the Houston Independent School District sustained major damage from Hurricane Harvey, and about 10,000 to 12,000 students are likely to be relocated to other campuses.
Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza also has raised the possibility that the opening of the 2015-16, already delayed two weeks until Sept. 11, may have to be postponed additional days.
Brian Busby, the district's chief operating officer, says 53 school campuses have what he characterized as "major" damage; 22 have sustained more severe, "extensive" damage. As of this weekend, workers were still assessing the status of 32 schools, as well as in-district charter campuses. Of the 245 campuses that have been assessed, 115 can be deep-cleaned and ready for classes on Sept. 11, Busby says.
Over the weekend, district officials examined the conditions at Hilliard Elementary, one of the schools that suffered extensive damage.
“A lot of people were expecting our babies to come back and were ready for school to start, and our kids were looking forward to coming back,” says school board member Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who represents the area that includes Hilliard. “It’s really heartbreaking. The most devastating part is driving through the communities to get here and seeing our children pulling their things out of flooded houses.”
Carranza says the school district is following strict restoration guidelines, including those set out by FEMA, to ensure campuses are safe.
Board President Wanda Adams says the district is taking steps to ensure that students and staff have all their needs met in the aftermath of Harvey.
“We are looking at the whole child and making sure they have their needs," says Adams. "We’ve been partnering with some medical facilities to be sure that if they need medical care, we are addressing that issue."
“We are making all of these issues with our schools a priority and trying to get them back to the way they were before the storm hit,” Adams said. “This has been a heartfelt tragedy for Houston. We have many students that have lost everything, and so for them to lose their school— I’m sure it has to be heart-wrenching.”