Katrina Leaves Families Scattered, Students Disconnected
> 11/1/2006 10:41:56 AM

The process of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has been a long and intensely painful one, particularly for students whose lives were severely disrupted by the tragedy. Less than half of the city's surviving public schools are currently open, and the state has assumed responsibility for some. Among those few, administrators report nearly universal increases in disruptive behavior and outright violence aimed at authority figures and fellow students. In order to combat this trend, more security guards and police officers now walk the halls of New Orleans schools. Students complain that the number of disciplinary officials threatens to surpass the number of teachers.

The hurricane's destruction left many stranded without homes or sources of income, forcing parents to accept work in places as distant as Texas and Arkansas. While hundreds of thousands of students are also attending school in other places across the south and southwest, and some advocate seperate schools for these displaced kids, many either never left New Orleans or returned after the storm, and in quite a few cases they are currently living without parents or guardians. This worrisome lack of adult oversight will almost certainly lead to more disciplinary problems.

While nearly everyone available for comment offers an opinion on the best methods of response to this geographical crisis in education, workers on the ground remain focused on the often unencouraging reality of the situation. In addition to disciplinary issues, most area schools lack sufficient funding and manpower. A smooth return to pre-Katrina levels of efficiency is unlikely for already troubled districts:

“The same way other residents are calling it quits, teachers are no different,” Leslie Jacobs, a member of the state school board, said. “The teacher shortage is real. The book shortage is real. We have a labor shortage. There is a shortage of bus drivers. The whole food-service industry is short of workers.”

The government offers online answers to common questions about federal aid for students affected by the storm, but this hardly constitutes relief for the hundreds of thousands of kids affected by the disaster. While much of the country either chooses not to think of the situation or feels powerless to improve it, countless families and students continue to suffer with no real end in sight.

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