Many Children Still Lack Schools in New Orleans
Many Children Still Lack Schools in New Orleans
Many children who returned to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still aren't in school. No one knows how many students are affected, but the city has reopened too few schools to accommodate all of those who have come back. Louisiana state officials are responding by stepping up the reopening of some schools. Eve Troeh reports from New Orleans.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY, from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.
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In New Orleans, many children who have come back to the city with their parents are not back in school. No one knows exactly how many kids are idol. But we do know the city has not been able to open enough schools to accommodate them.
Eve Troeh reports from New Orleans.
EVE TROEH reporting:
Asally Divine(ph) walks up to Craig Elementary to register her son for pre-kindergarten.
Ms. ASALLY DIVINE: How, how are you?
Unidentified Man: Are you registering?
Ms. DIVINE: Yes, we are.
Unidentified Man: Okay. How many are you registering for?
Ms. DIVINE: Just one, please.
TROEH: Divine returned in January, but her four-year old son Kamara(ph) didn't come with her. She left him with her sister in New York.
Ms. DIVINE: When I came back to work, I was unsure of conditions, accommodations, all of those things, so I was not ready to bring him back, and I've been wanting him to come back. So when I found out that the school was open, I went and got him, and came to register him today.
TROEH: Joseph A. Craig Elementary is one of three schools that will reopen this month under control of the Louisiana Department of Education. These will be the first schools opened by the state after it took over 102 failing New Orleans city schools last November. The state admits it's very late in the year for students to start at a new school.
Ms. HEIDI DANIELS (Former New Orleans Teacher): It seems like a strange time to open school, but there's a need, so we're trying got meet that need.
TROEH: Heidi Daniels is a former New Orleans teacher now working for the state to reopen schools. She says the new schools will hold classes from mid-April to the end of June, enough time for a full academic quarter. Daniels says it's been tough to determine the need for more schools since there are no solid numbers that show how many children are back in New Orleans.
Ms. DANIELS: In one sense you say we're not going to build it because we don't think we have enough people; but at the same time, if you open these schools, obviously, we've seen people are going to come home so they can go to school.
TROEH: Thousands of children are already home and many have been going to school.
(Soundbite of bell)
TROEH: John McDonogh Number 35, is just one of six public high schools to reopen and the only high school open in a downtown neighborhood. Principal Phillip White says when he reopened the school in January he planned to take 800 students, fewer than usual due to damage from the hurricane. Within a month however, enrollment was at almost a thousand, and he had to cut it off.
Mr. PHILLIP WHITE (Principal, John McDonogh High School): We just don't have any other space. We have over 400 names of students whose parents have registered, but we didn't have space to accommodate them.
TROEH: He says it's been frustrating to turn away students.
Mr. WHITE: You know, it's a student right, a family right to be educated and to be provided with a public education, and people who don't have the political resources or the wherewithal and know-how to demand their rights, well, who takes care of that population's interest?
TROEH: Phillip White says many parents whose children were put on waiting lists have been doing just that, waiting for more schools to open. That's what Bridget Thomas did when she was told there was no room at the high school for her two teenage sons.
Ms. BRIDGET THOMAS (Parent): They were booked. They couldn't take no more children. We've been home about two months, and I've been trying to get him in school, and I heard this on the news so I hurried up and came to get him back in school. They're ready to go back. They say they're bored.
TROEH: Thomas was at Craig Elementary to register her sons for the one high school reopening this month.
A few blocks from Craig, 15-year old Lakendra LaQue(ph) sits on a porch at the Iberville Housing Project. She hasn't been to school since she came home four months ago. She says all the free time is getting dull.
Ms. LAKENDRA LAQUE (Student): I wake up around 12 o'clock because I don't go to bed until late at night. And when I wake up, I just eat and you know, go outside, talk on the phone. We don't have nothing else to do, just look around. It be boring.
TROEH: LaQue says she plans to finish up ninth grade at one of the schools that will reopen next week. She hopes she doesn't get held back. But with all the time lost, she doesn't know if she can pass.
TROEH: For NPR News, I'm Eve Troeh.
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