Two schools damaged by Katrina ready for students

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two Gulf Coast elementary schools that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina are planning yet another first day of school for their displaced students early next week.

Gorenflo and Nichols Elementary schools, scheduled to reopen Dec. 4, had to be gutted and renovated before they could again house children.

Students from the two schools have been sharing space with Beauvoir and Jeff Davis elementaries since school reopened in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina.

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“The outside structures were pretty sound,” Superintendent Paul Tisdale said. “But we had to tear out Sheetrock and tile and replace wiring.”

Maintenance workers began delivering furniture, books and other supplies to the new schools last week.

Enrollment for both schools is about half of what it was before the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane. About 152 students will return to Gorenflo next week, and 146 students will be at Nichols. Before the storm, the schools had enrollments of 330 and 300 respectively.

Officials said most of the other schools in the district have enrollments of about 90 percent of what they had before Katrina.

Tisdale said the school district will have to decide if it needs two schools in the same area.

“In a year, based on availability and affordability of housing in East Biloxi, we will decide if we need two schools in East Biloxi,” he said.

The cost to renovate Nichols was just under $5 million; the cost for Gorenflo was just over $5 million.

The district had to pay $1 million of the cost for Nichols because the school was in a flood plain but the district wasn’t required to carry flood insurance, Tisdale said. Because there was no flood insurance, FEMA would not pay for some of the costs to replace structure and contents.