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News Update

Houston-area school districts grapple with hurricane disruptions

RELIEF FOR SCHOOLS—Roy Garcia, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD associate superintendent, helps organize classroom supplies donated to Moore Elementary School teachers in September. (Cypress-Fairbanks ISD).
RELIEF FOR SCHOOLS—Roy Garcia, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD associate superintendent, helps organize classroom supplies donated to Moore Elementary School teachers in September. (Cypress-Fairbanks ISD).

School officials in more than 200 southeastern Texas districts were struggling early last month to recover from Hurricane Harvey and ensure that more than 1 million students who were disrupted by the storm could begin the school year in safe and functional classrooms.

At press time, most districts impacted by Harvey-related flooding had delayed school openings and were assessing damage and starting remediation.

Texas education commissioner Mike Morath authorized missed school day waivers for districts in federally designated disaster areas.

At Houston ISD, the nation’s seventh-largest school district, as many as 12,000 students were expected to be displaced from storm-damaged schools and transferred to other campuses in the district, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Officials there were considering double shifts in some buildings, with students from one school attending class in the morning and students from another school attending class in the afternoon, the Chronicle reported.

The storm’s impact was expected to be felt well beyond the region directly hit by Harvey, as districts elsewhere in the state prepared to serve displaced families who had found temporary shelter or housing in their cities.

The federal McKinney-Vento Act provides protections for homeless students, such as those affected by natural disasters. Displaced students can enroll in other districts and are entitled to free lunch and transportation.

In Texas, state funding follows students, so a district accepting displaced children receives the necessary additional financial support. Some districts, including Dallas ISD, waived some of the usual enrollment requirements to simplify the process for displaced students who were sheltered in the city.