Schools Learn How To Recover From Katrina - - The News for South Mississippi


Schools Learn How To Recover From Katrina

What used to be safe havens for children have turned into danger zones. On many campuses across South Mississippi, classrooms are chaotic, supplies are a mess, and buildings are blown away. With scenes like this, it's no wonder many superintendents are asking when can they open up again?

Mississippi Education Superintendent Dr. Hank Bounds said, "The effort today is number one to help you recover from the effects of the storm, and start school as quickly as possible".

Dr. Bounds, along with other state and federal officials, met with area superintendents to reassure them that they're taking steps to help each district recover. Topics covered questions ranging from displaced students and portable classrooms, to lunches and graduation requirements.

Jason Dean with the Governor's Office said, "We're also going to try to reduce the GPA requirement that's in the law, as well as the Carnegie unit. Right now it's 14.  We're going to try to move it to 10".

They also discussed how FEMA will help reimburse school districts to help cover some of the costs of rebuilding.

Dr. Bounds said, "Textbooks, yes. Classroom furnishings, yes. Technology, yes".

Dr. Henry Johnson said, "We want education to get as much of that FEMA money and any money that Congress authorizes as possible".

One familiar face on the panel was Dr. Henry Johnson, the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. Johnson has strong ties to Mississippi because he once served as our state's school chief.

Dr. Johnson said, "It's horrendous, the devastation. It's almost overwhelming, and so having said that, we want to make sure that we commit ourselves to rebuilding".

One of the most immediate issues is to make sure the buildings are ready. Harrison County emergency leaders say they will move all evacuees out of school shelters by this Saturday. That will give schools enough time to cleanup the buildings, and prepare to welcome back students.

Dr. Johnson said, "You can't help but be touched by the devastation. We just have to resolve within ourselves to build upon earlier foundations and make things better".

Two unresolved issues are testing schedules and school attendance requirements. Dr. Bounds said the Education Department could decide to not administer tests, push back the testing dates, or not rely on the accountability results.

As for the attendance issue, he said the department could decide whether to waive the 180-day requirement, and not force students to make up too many days.

by Trang Pham-Bui

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