Some schools will need months of work before they can reopen.
Some schools will need months of work before they can reopen.

Monday Start Date Unlikely for Displaced Houston ISD Students, Trustee Says

With the Houston Independent School District still repairing schools damaged by Hurricane Harvey, and more than 10,000 students likely to be moved to other schools, the September 11 start date the district announced last week appears unlikely for all 215,000 HISD students.

“We need to focus on those who can, and there may be some who can’t,” said HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford about schools that may not be ready to open Monday.

HISD has been scrambling to assess and repair school buildings, but has yet to release a list of schools that will be closed for the start of the 2017-2018 school year. On Saturday, officials had reached 245 of the 280 schools in the district, with 53 of those schools graded as having received “major damage” from flooding and 22 with “extensive damage,” according to a district press release. Hilliard Elementary in northwest Houston, where HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and officials visited on Saturday, is part of the latter group. Carranza stood in a Hilliard classroom that he said at one point held four feet of standing water.

“That’s the level of devastation that we’re talking about,” Carranza said, adding that Hilliard likely won’t open for several months and other schools may never be inhabitable again.

HISD spokeswoman Milagros Quintanilla told the Houston Press the district is trying to determine what schools can be repaired on time and where displaced students will ultimately attend before releasing a full list of affected schools. She said Carranza will likely address some of the issues in a press conference Thursday morning.

Lunceford said if repair costs for schools are more than 50 percent of what it would cost to build a new school, HISD may consider replacing the schools.

In Lunceford’s District V, which covers southwest Houston on either side of the 610 Loop, Kolter Elementary, which sits just south of Brays Bayou, and Braeburn Elementary both flooded, according to Lunceford. He said the rest of his district seems to have escaped okay and he is unaware of any large high schools in Houston that received significant damage. That would be a potential nightmare scenario for HISD officials, who would then have to relocate thousands of students from a single school.

What’s likely is that some schools will be starting behind the rest of the district. Fort Bend ISD has already pushed back its start date to Tuesday, September 12, with teachers reporting the day before. For HISD schools that may not be ready, Lunceford referenced his daughter’s former high school, Bellaire, which closed for two weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008 while others remained open.

“A school like Bellaire has got 3,500 students. You can’t just put them in another school very easily,” he said. “We have to have some flexibility. Everybody is going to have to take a breath and say, ‘Okay, how are we going to get through this with the least amount of pain?’”

Update, 5:55 p.m.: To assist students whose families are still reeling from Harvey, HISD announced Wednesday afternoon it will be handing out free school uniforms at locations across the city on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. HISD had said previously it would relax its uniform policy until January, but students may still wear uniforms to school. Students must be present to receive clothing at these locations: Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center, Hardy Senior Center, Hiram Clarke-Multi-Service Center, Northeast Multi-Service Center, Southwest Multi-Service Center, Third Ward Multi-Service Center and the YET Center.

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