On October 3, 77 of the 84 schools in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish–one of the four that bore the greatest brunt of Hurricane Katrina–reopened. At press time, classes were meeting an extra hour each day to make up for the 24 days of instruction lost since the hurricane struck on August 29.
Tens of thousands of other students and their families, however, were still scattered nationwide, and many still needed help in the form of permanent housing, curricula, school supplies, and personal needs. To that end, several interactive Web sites have been established that allow people and organizations making donations and displaced families in need of education supplies and services to find each other. To help, please visit any of the following sites.
- Displaced families seeking schools that can take in their children may call the Children’s Emergency School Hotline, established jointly by the Center for Education Reform and the National Council of Education Providers, at 1-800/291-7809.
- The U.S. Department of Education has established Hurricane Help for Schools, an interactive Web site for schools serving displaced students who are in need of books, clothes, or other supplies, and companies or other organizations seeking to donated needed items, at http://hurricanehelpforschools.gov/index.html or www.ed.gov/news/hurricane/index.html.
- A similar site is being operated by Icurio, a resource management software company serving the education industry. Its Surplus module allows the public to donate goods and those in need to search for them, at http://www.icurio.org.
- The Mississippi Department of Education features an “Offering Assistance” link on its Web site for those willing to donate supplies, materials, or equipment. See http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/Katrina.
- Blackboard, Inc., a company providing e-learning software, has made several of its features free to schools affected by the hurricane, including its online course creation site where instructors can develop online courses that Blackboard will host for free for the rest of the academic year. See http://www.katrina.blackboard.com.
- During November and December, the College Board is offering free SAT tests to high school seniors and free PSAT/NMSQT tests to high school juniors and sophomores displaced by the storm. To take advantage of the offer, students must request SAT fee waiver forms from the counselor at the school they are now attending and mail them in with their registration forms or, if registering online, to use the fee waiver code indicated on the online form at http://www.collegeboard.com. Schools requiring additional fee waiver forms are urged to contact the College Board as soon as possible at 888-SAT-HELP or 888-477-PSAT.
- Calvert Education Services has free Disaster Relief Education Scholarships for families who want or need to educate their children at home, to enroll in a Calvert School. The program includes all the textbooks, workbooks, and supplies for a year of instruction, and the materials can move with the families as they identify permanent housing. For information or to apply, visit http://www.calvertschool.org/katrina, or call 888/487-4652.
- In Houston, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a private educational contractor, opened Douglas Elementary School, which had been scheduled for closure, to serve strictly children evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. Superintendent Mike Feinberg, who oversees four KIPP schools in the Houston area, wrote in the September 20 edition of the Center for Education Reform newsletter, “achievement levels in the New Orleans schools were not all that great before the hurricane, and now that more stress and trauma have been added to the mix, we face a very difficult task to add significant value this year to help the children and their families get back on the road that leads to great lives. Whether you can help with time in the school, donations of supplies for the students or other items for their families, or funds to pay for all of our academic and social services, we will greatly appreciate your assistance.” To help the students at Douglas Elementary, write KIPP Public Affairs Officer Steve Mancini at [email protected], or call him at 415/531-5396.
- Homeschooling families who need help with curricula, housing, or other needs can get it from the Home School Legal Defense Association by e-mailing [email protected].
Karla Dial ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.