LIVINGSTON, La. — Livingston Parish’s 28,000 students have returned to the classroom.
Schools opened for the first time Monday after floodwaters ravaged a third of the district’s campuses and displaced thousands of families a month ago. But with six of the hardest-hit schools still closed for untold repairs, the district’s long-term plan for recovery remains unclear.
Students from those six campuses — constituting about 16 percent of the district’s, according to last year’s count — will be divided among surrounding schools, some of which still bear signs of having sustained significant damage themselves.
At Denham Springs Junior High, teachers and staff worked feverishly Friday to assemble bookshelves, align desks and prepare classrooms for students’ return. Baseboards are still missing, and the tile flooring has crumpled in places, but inspirational messages written on each classroom’s whiteboard show the spirit of those who will return: “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Believe in what will be.”
Another severely damaged campus, Freshwater Elementary, will not only reopen for its students but also will welcome three grade levels from Denham Springs Elementary, one of five campuses in and around the city that must undergo extensive repairs or reconstruction before they can reopen. The sixth school that remains closed is Springfield High School.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2cxYfZp) the financial toll of the flooding on Livingston’s school system has yet to be calculated.
“We really have no idea at this point, but it’s pretty huge. It’s enormous,” Superintendent Rick Wentzel said.
The schools were not covered by flood insurance, which the School Board repeatedly has declined through the years, but may recoup some costs through other property insurance policies, business manager Terry Hughes said.
The school system also is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to try to expedite funding through the agency’s public assistance grants program, she said.
The White House’s announcement last week that the federal government would pick up 90 percent, rather than 75 percent, of the tab for eligible flood-related expenses will help reduce the district’s out-of-pocket costs under those grants.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com