THIBODAUX, La. (BRPROUD) — Schools in Lafourche Parish are slowly beginning to open back up after Hurricane Ida. But the pressure is building on the school district as children spend more time out of class and the cost to rebuild rises.
As of this week, between 8-9,000 students in Lafourche Parish are still out of school. In the hardest-hit areas, school buildings are undergoing major repairs to make it safe for kids to learn again. For South Lafourche High School, it won’t be until mid-October.
Around 5,000 children will be able to return to their schools starting Monday. The district plans to build multiple classrooms from the ground up and have a basic room with sheetrock and concrete floors for children to return to.
The superintendent said he is anxious to get kids back in class as students not in class are quickly falling behind. Even with the parish having chromebooks, virtual learning is not an option.
“Virtual options obviously depend on families’ ability to navigate the internet, have reliable power, and the infrastructure to support all that,” Superintendent Jarod Martin said.
He also said if the housing crisis in the southern part of the parish isn’t addressed soon then opening schools won’t matter because students need to have a place to live first and foremost.
“The biggest concern is our youngest learners,” Martin said. “So every day that we’re not in school, a five-year-old is not learning how to read. That is a much bigger concern than a senior right now.”
He said he is confident the seniors will be able to graduate on time this year.
In terms of money, Lafourche is going to need some help. With repairs estimated at over $100 million, the school district is going to run out before long without help. The district had just dug out of a fiscal hole after an economic impact from the oil industry in 2018. They hoped to end the year with $28 million in the general fund, and expected to pay $170 million for their yearly operating fund.
“When you compare the amount of money that we have, $20 million, to the total cost of $100 million, we’re going to need to partner with our friends at the governor’s office, hopefully to receive FEMA money very quickly,” Martin said.
They have already begun the application process for FEMA grants. Read how other school districts are recovering from the storm here.