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New hurricane 'playbook' for schools aims to lessen harm from major storms

Ducts from an industrial-sized dehumidifier snake their way inside the fieldhouse at Frederick A. Douglass High School to dry out its interior. Sept. 9, 2021.
Aubri Juhasz
Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish was severely damaged by Hurricane Ida.

Louisiana schools now have a hurricane “playbook” to follow before, during and after storms.

The new resource comes from the state’s Department of Education and is the first of its kind, according to Superintendent Cade Brumley.

“Louisiana’s students, families, and educators have shown unwavering resilience in the face of extraordinary adversity,” Brumley said Thursday. “These recommendations will help modernize Louisiana’s education infrastructure and equip school systems with the necessary tools to protect their facilities pre- and post-hurricane.”

The 26-page document asks school leaders to think through their hurricane plan in advance and provides checklists to ensure nothing is overlooked — like emptying cafeteria refrigerators if necessary.

Another piece of advice from the guide: Know your insurance policy’s deductible and have enough cash on hand for the worst-case scenario.

The document is the result of a commission created by the department in 2021 that includes educators, government officials, and outside experts.

While the document could help school leaders avoid costly missteps and reopen schools more quickly, there are still underlying problems.

One issue lies with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is supposed to bridge the gap between insurance payouts and expenses when storm damage is extreme.

FEMA largely relies on a process that requires districts to pay for repairs and then wait months and sometimes years for reimbursement. Since many schools don’t have significant cash resources, recovery often occurs in spurts as districts wait for more money.

The problem is compounded by state policy. School districts receive funding based on enrollment, and students are often displaced temporarily or permanently after storms.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.