St. James and Ascension parish schools welcomed students back Tuesday despite still dealing with lingering effects from Hurricane Isaac.
Lonnie Luce, superintendent of St. James Parish schools, said that every school in the parish was affected in some way by the hurricane, but the district was able to return to operation Tuesday without too many hassles.
He said both high schools and all five elementary schools in the parish faced “small issues” and had “some water in some places,” with two or three of the schools facing more serious problems.
A couple of schools had their electricity reconnected as late as Monday night, and water was found in places where officials didn’t expect to find it, he said.
In addition, he said, several schools suffered damage to ceiling tiles, and officials have been forced to “jump through hoops” in order to find new tiles. It might be “awhile” before some of the issues are resolved, Luce said.
Despite those setbacks, however, he said he was proud that district employees pitched in to help make sure everything was ready to go on Tuesday.
“We managed to get through those issues and have a good first day of school,” Luce said.
The Ascension Parish school district also faced its share of problems, said Johnnie Balfantz, the district’s public information officer.
Several schools were faced with air conditioning problems. Two of the schools hit hardest by the storm were St. Amant High School and Galvez Middle School, which suffered roof damage, leaks and some water damage in classrooms, Balfantz said.
The district’s biggest loss, however, was the food in coolers that had to be thrown out following power outages. However, all of the food in freezers was salvaged, and none of the problems kept school from resuming Tuesday.
Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol applauded the “Herculean efforts” of district employees in making sure the school facilities, which were ready to reopen Tuesday morning, stayed safe and secure.
“The school system is alive and well,” Pujol said. “We were very fortunate to escape any major damage. There were very few issues.”
St. James Parish, meanwhile, lost several teachers and students who were driven from their homes by flood waters, Luce said.
Several of the district’s teachers who live in LaPlace saw their houses flood, he said. They were replaced Tuesday by substitutes. Luce said he hoped they could return later in the week or next week.
Several students also fled the parish with their families and are staying at a shelter at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Ascension Parish. Luce said those students might transfer to Ascension Parish schools, but he hopes they can find places to stay in St. James Parish and return to school. Pujol said she wasn’t aware of any new enrollees Tuesday.
Luce admitted that Tuesday had its struggles, but he hoped Wednesday and the remainder of the week would go more smoothly.
“Our people are really anxious to get back and try to establish normalcy,” Luce said.