Educators demonstrate public service during Hurricane Harvey
When Hurricane Harvey barreled ashore Aug. 25, it disrupted schooling for as many as 1.4 million Texas public school students or about one of every four pupils in the state.
Sixty counties in the Coastal Bend and Houston area have now been declared disaster areas by Gov. Greg Abbott. Most districts and charter schools have re-opened. However, a few districts that suffered severe damage, such as Aransas County ISD, Aransas Pass ISD and Port Aransas ISD, estimate that they will not open until October.
Commissioner of Education Mike Morath recently told the State Board of Education that Texas educators have provided numerous “acts of heroism” as they’ve helped their communities respond to the hurricane and related flooding. For example, about three dozen schools in the Houston area alone served as emergency shelters.
“What we have seen was public service on an epic scale,” Morath said.
He noted that the Texas Education Agency “has been feverishly busy trying to support the affected school districts.”
The agency has announced numerous policy waivers and guidance related to the disaster. Those are collected on a central webpage found at http://tea.texas.gov/HarveyResources//
It has also established a resource page for parents, as well as a page containing information for those who wish to make a donation or provide other assistance. A parent hotline was established in the weeks following the hurricane to answer questions dealing with topics such as enrollment.
A registry was also set up for districts and charters that lost instructional and for those districts that experienced an enrollment increase because of students relocating after the hurricane. The register informs potential donors of instructional materials needs. The intent is to coordinate donations so that districts’ specific needs are met efficiently.
House Speaker Joe Strauss has also asked the House Committee on Public Education to study three hurricane-related issues. He asked the committee to:
- Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses and to recommend possible state action, such as changes in student enrollment counts or property valuation, to mitigate the impact on districts.
- Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Harvey and its aftermath.
- Examine the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey and the process by which schools enroll and serve these students. The committee is to recommend any processes that could be improved.