AMITE — Absenteeism in Tangipahoa Parish public schools was up slightly Tuesday due to Hurricane Isaac, while several campuses sustained damage in the storm, but overall the district was back to business as usual, Superintendent Mark Kolwe said.
On an average day, about 5 percent of the district’s students and 45 teachers are absent from school compared with about 6.5 percent of students and 58 teachers absent Tuesday, Kolwe told School Board members at a meeting.
“Several of our teachers live in the LaPlace area (in St. John the Baptist Parish) and have flooded homes,” as do several who live in Tangipahoa Parish, Kolwe said.
Kolwe visited 21 of the district’s 32 campuses Tuesday and noted several sustained storm damage.
The damage included roof leaks at Chesbrough Elementary in Kentwood and Loranger High School’s gym, destruction of the new covered walkway leading to Ponchatoula High School’s ROTC building, downed trees and broken windows at Hammond High and a leaning scoreboard at Independence High, he said.
School officials will meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Wednesday morning, the superintendent said.
“There are specific requirements we have to meet to get reimbursement, and (Chief Financial Officer) Bret Schnadelbach and the staff are already working on that,” Kolwe said.
“FEMA requires you to go through the bid process, get three prices, so we can’t just go fix it today,” Kolwe said. “But we anticipate all repairs because of the storm will be reimbursable.”
Kolwe commended system staff, particularly custodians, maintenance workers and principals who worked to ready the schools used as shelters for the return of students Tuesday.
Assistant Superintendent Thomas Bellavia will distribute a survey among teachers, asking whether the district should make up the two storm days by lengthening the work day in the spring or adding back two days from the scheduled weeklong Mardi Gras break, Kolwe said.
“The sense I got in talking to teachers and staff today was that most, though not all, would prefer not to have longer work days,” Kolwe said. “They would prefer maybe to cut a couple holidays we’ve never had before. ...”
Kolwe will report the survey results to the School Board at its next meeting Sept. 18, he said.