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Helping the Students Affected by Hurricane Katrina

Katrina's Educational Impact

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Refugess housed at the Houston Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina.

Picture of Louisiana refugees being housed at the Houston Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of FEMA.

I had always heard about how big-hearted Texans were. Now the US is seeing it firsthand. On August 31st, Commissioner of Education Shirley J. Neeley announced that the Texas public schools are opening their doors to Hurricane Katrina refugees. It is so important for children to get back into a stable routine and school is central to this. Included with this announcement is that normal immunization requirements are being waived. Further, the state has a mandated 22-to-1 student to teacher ratio. This will be waived if necessary to accommodate the influx of students. The state will provide textbooks, extend the free and reduced lunch program, and provide funding to the schools for the students.

As educators, we realize the damage that this heartbreaking story will have on the children of displaced families. Children will be facing horrors including the loss of their home, the loss of family members, witnessing acts of violence, dealing with death, and so much more. You can learn more about how to help children cope with disaster with this University of Illinois pamphlet called Helping Children Cope with Disaster. As it explains, children rely on routine to help them cope. They will look to adults for help. They will need to discuss their feelings. They will also need reassurance that they are safe.

I believe that educators throughout the country should pitch in and help however possible. I know that my school is currently working with state authorities to determine ways that we can provide access to courses for students affected this terrible tragedy. If nothing else, donate money to the American Red Cross or other reliable charities. This is not going away anytime soon and only through helping our neighbors can we be assured that we will all have a stronger country tomorrow.

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