GALLIANO, LA – More than 70,000 students remain out of school because of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall over a month ago, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.
While many school districts, including those in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, were able to reopen several weeks ago, the damage in coastal communities is going to take longer to overcome. Many people in these rural towns got power back just days ago and families are still trying to get back on their feet after losing everything.
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“We’re still living in a camper right now,” Russell Plaisance, South Lafourche Parish resident and dad of three, said. “I’m trying to get a roof on the house and get it livable by the day they start school. That’s my goal.”
This is the reality for many parents in southern Louisiana. They’re worrying about their children’s basic necessities, like food and shelter. School and homework have to take a back seat.
“It’s been rough, but I’m hanging in there for them,” Plaisance said. “A lot of parents are moving to different states. We decided we’re not going to do that. We’re just going to stick it out.”
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The school yard at South Lafourche High School is filled with debris from Hurricane Ida.
Lafourche Parish Superintendent Jarod Martin says the district is returning to school in phases. Those schools near the coast, where the damage is much more significant, will be the last to return.
“In the days following the storm, we told everybody, now is not a time to worry about school,” Martin said. “They need to worry about their homes, their families and their loved ones.”
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South Lafourche High School suffered extensive damage from Ida. Contractors are working 24/7 to get the building back up and running.
Part of the outside wall of South Lafourche High School was ripped off during Ida.
Dehumidifiers are running daily to dry the building after major flooding.
“Since the storm, students have not done any work,” Principal Gaye Cheramie said. “We have not required them to do anything. The one thing we asked them to do is earn service hours, help their family, help their community.”
The goal is for students to return Oct. 13. To make up for lost class time, school leaders say a few days will be taken from holiday breaks and the school year will run an extra two weeks into summer.
“We need some normalcy,” Cheramie said. “We need our kids back.”
Rebekah Castor joined Fox News in 2021 as a multimedia reporter based in New Orleans.