The Houston Independent School District has postponed the first day of school another week because of Tropical Storm Harvey, with students now beginning classes Monday, September 11 — a full two weeks from the original start date on August 25.
“We are eager to get our students back into the classroom and learning,” said HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza in a press release Thursday afternoon. “But we also need to be sure that our campuses are safe and that Houston’s infrastructure and roads are ready to handle transporting our students safely to school."
HISD originally postponed the first day of school for the 215,000 students in the district to Tuesday, September 5, after flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey devastated Houston and the Gulf Coast. Schools in and around the district were used as shelters during the storm and district buses help transport those displaced by floodwater.
After an emergency HISD Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday afternoon, Carranza did emphasize that September 11 is still not a guarantee. HISD said it is assessing any damage to the district's 300 schools and administrative buildings. Presently, HISD employees had checked about 200 of those buildings, of which about 99 percent had received some damage. He said about 3 or 4 percent of the buildings were heavily damaged.
He also noted that most of the buildings HISD had not inspected were the ones inaccessible because of surrounding water.
"Even for minimal water intrusion, we'll be really busy to meet the deadline," Carranza said.
More than likely, several schools will have to be temporarily relocated to other locations. He also noted that Liberty High School, a special high school for new immigrants, received significant enough damage from flooding that the district will likely have to find a new location for the school.
The district is trying its best to ensure the transition back to school goes smoothly for students. To help families, HISD also announced it will be relaxing its uniform policy until January, a nod to those who lost homes because of flooding. It announced it will be opening up nine centers across the city to distribute food, and crisis counselors will be in schools to help kids dealing with any trauma from the floods, with counselors from across the country likely coming in for additional help as well.
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Starting Friday at 10:30 a.m, HISD will be collecting new or unused clothes,
At the trustees meeting, the board also approved measures to allow HISD to accept current and future donations for Harvey relief, including a $1 million private gift.
With additional costs for school repairs imminent, it's likely HISD will deepen the $69 million deficit it already has slated for the 2018-2019 school year. Carranza noted, though, that the Texas Legislature has a possible solution for times like these.
"I want to remind everybody, the state of Texas has a $10 billion rainy day fund," he said, referring to the state's economic stabilization fund, the billion-dollar state savings account for tough economic times. "I don't know if you've been looking, but it's been raining."