The Houston Independent School District is starting the new school year on Sept. 11 for most campuses as clean-up following the devastating rains and floods from Tropical Storm Harvey.
Superintendent Richard Carranza announced Thursday afternoon that rolling starts will begin Monday for 202 schools in the district with 73 campuses starting on Sept. 18, following further assessments. The nine schools sustaining the most damage open on Sept. 25.
“During Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the surrounding school districts took six months to open their schools,” said Carranza. “Hurricane Harvey was just as destructive, and we’re attempting to open a much larger school district in two weeks.”
Carranza said the district looked at three factors to address the safety of students and staff: that the facilities safe, clean, and secured.
“Some campuses were fortunate to have limited damage, while others need so much work, they will not reopen this year,” he added.
The local board of education announced on Aug. 31 that it eyed the Sept. 11 date for the start of the new school year, which was delayed by the onslaught of Harvey. Previoiusly, Houston ISD officials said they hoped to start school following the Labor Day weekend. But with much of the area still underwater at the point following as much as 50 inches of rain from the wettest storm in U.S. history, district trustees voted instead that central office staff, which is thought to also include transportation, and school principals were to return as Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Last week, Carranza said nearly all of the 200 school cities that district officials have been able to evaluate suffered some flooding. He added that the district hopes to have all school campuses assessed by midnight local time on Friday.
“Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and welcome our babies,” said Board President Trustee Wanda Adams.
The school board also authorized additional district purchases during the onslaught of Harvey to pay for emergency management and evacuation. Trustees also approved current and future donations to the Houston ISD Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Carranza received approval to accept a $1 million donation to the district’s foundation from a private donor to aid in the relief effort, and the board voted to compensate hourly workers such as school bus drivers for the time Harvey forced schools to be closed.
A school district spokeswoman told STN that the district is still in the process of determining damage to the fleet of school buses.
On Friday, Houston ISD also announced that it planned a tour of damaged areas on Saturday and that it would start opening school campuses over the weekend to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to local residents affected by the flooding. Sysco, Life Time and Life Time Foundations are partnering with the school district to provide the free meals.
“The Houston community needs our support now more than ever,” said Adams. “Thousands of families have been displaced from their homes and have suffered unimaginable loss and trauma. To even begin the recovery process, we must first address families’ most basic needs, which includes access to food and water. That is why HISD is stepping in to provide meals."
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