Education Groups Aid Louisiana Flood Victims
As southern Louisiana begins the arduous process of cleaning up after the floods that ravaged the area this month, the National Education Association and the Louisiana Association of Educators are working to provide public school employees with relief assistance and school recovery resources.
Floodwaters are finally receding in southern Louisiana after heavy rains pounded the area the last few weeks, killing 13 people and displacing thousands. President Obama declared the area a major disaster last week, and the Red Cross is calling the floods the nation’s worst natural disaster since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told NPR that the flooding could delay the opening of schools by days. But as John White, the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, told The Washington Post: “There is the facility and capacity in the region to serve all students. The greater challenge is displacement, especially of teachers.”
White estimated that as many as 4,000 public school employees were displaced by the floods. Some of the hardest hit areas include the Livingston and Ascension parishes, which have not yet announced when they will open their doors. But even for schools that didn’t experience the full brunt of the floods, such as The City of Baker Schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish, which admitted students earlier this week, there are still major challenges.
With this in mind, the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA), launched a flood-relief fund that will help educators affected personally or professionally by the floods. A portal has been setup to accept nationwide donations, and public school employees are encouraged to apply for relief funds.
“I’d like to extend my heartfelt sympathy to all who are suffering loss from this tragedy,” said LAE President Debbie Meaux in a press release. “When crisis strikes, the daily lessons imparted in our classrooms kick into gear and we are certainly seeing proof of this in the actions of Louisiana’s citizens. Resilience and respect for each other have been a common sight over the past few days; our neighbors have shown incredible selflessness and bravery. This is the greatest sign of hope as we face a time of tremendous rebuilding.”
“There is not one person who is a teacher, a custodian, a paraprofessional, a librarian or a secretary—there is not one employee of Baker High who is not impacted by this,” said Principal Tracy Morgan to The Washington Post. “We have students and teachers who have lost literally everything.”
Along with the flood-relief fund, LAE and NEA are also getting the word out about their School Crisis Guide [PDF] that gives schools and educators the information they require to get up and running as soon as possible.
“Knowing what to do can be the difference between stability and chaos,” Meaux said in a press release. “It is so important for our schools to establish a sense of normalcy for our educators and students so that they can feel safe, despite what they may be going through at home as a result of the recovery.”
Joey Gregory's reflection is seen in flood water as he walks on top of sand bags in St. Amant, Louisiana. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)