Tuesday, October 04, 2005

School Daze In Southern Louisiana

Yesterday was the first day of classes for some New Orleans area schools, including those in the suburb of Harahan:
Of the 26 children in Ms. Siemssen's second-grade class, half did not return to class on Monday.

Maggie was gone, and so were Hannah and Michael and Megan and nine other children, and the empty desks and empty neighborhoods made an impression.

"It's like a ghost town," Jeremy Porter, 7, said as his class gathered to discuss their experiences in Hurricane Katrina for the first time. "There's no people left."

It was like that all across schools in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans's most populous suburb. Although most homes are relatively intact, many residents have stayed away: Only about half of the parish's 49,000 public school pupils were counted on the first day of classes since Hurricane Katrina struck in late August.

The widespread absences heightened fears that even though Jefferson Parish was spared the worst of Katrina's wrath, the community may be devastated all the same by a migration of jobs and people out of this metropolitan area of 1.3 million.

Many school parents who lived here and sustained little or no damage to their homes have relocated because their jobs in devastated portions of New Orleans have moved on, officials said. And many Jefferson Parish businesses that depended on New Orleans residents for customers or workers could leave as well.
Schools in New Orleans itself are enrolling students for a likely November opening. Teachers continue to remain without paychecks.
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