School is open again on the hurricane-damaged Miss. Gulf Coast

Published 6:32 pm Friday, August 4, 2006

Most public schools impacted by Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast last year were set to reopen Friday or Monday, but officials say they have no clue of how many students to expect this school year.

Harrison County schools opened on Friday. Henry Arledge, the school district’s superintendent, said some schools are still in need of repair work.

“We’re going to start, but we’ve got problems,” Arledge said. “We’re going to take care of the children and make things work. We’re just out of time.”

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Arledge said Thursday he did not know if Woolmarket Elementary and Harrison Central Elementary would have air conditioning. Both were also getting last-minute roofing repairs because of the Aug. 29 hurricane.

D’Iberville Middle School will be in portable classrooms, Arledge said.

Harrison County had 13,185 students before the hurricane. It ended the year with 12,200 students. “The principals are saying we’re increasing (in students), and we’re packed out,” Arledge said.

Kim Stasny, superintendent of Bay St. Louis-Waveland schools, estimates that 80 percent of her students — about 1,900 — will return, but as of this week only 1,350 students had enrolled.

“I don’t know if parents are just not registering children. It’s just a guessing game,” Stasny said.

There are still no apartments or major living places in Bay St. Louis and Waveland, she said. Some students are probably going to remain at their temporary homes until they get their home rebuilt or an apartment, said Stasny.

Gulfport schools opened Thursday. Assistant Superintendent Mike Tatum said it was a few days earlier than usual but not by much.

“We usually start the second week of August. … With so many displaced families, it was a good time to get an accurate count and to see how many new students are added to the district,” he said. Attendance was just under 5,000. Last year’s enrollment was 5,115, according to the state Department of Education.

All schools will be open except 28th Street Elementary.

“That elementary was destroyed. Those kids are being transported to two other elementaries,” Tatum said.

Pascagoula schools open Monday with two schools still sharing campuses with two others. Gautier Elementary will be in portables on the same campus as College Park Elementary in Gautier. Beach Elementary, also still in portables, will be on the Central Elementary campus in Pascagoula.