New Orleans Archdiocese Celebrates Reopening Of Some Catholic Schools
As the sun rises, Lee Baker, a religion teacher at Archbishop Rummel High School, warmly embraces Mark Daniels Jr., a senior student. Baker inquires about the amount of water that flooded Daniels’ street and home. Daniels replies that his area experienced 8 or 9 feet of water.
Baker, residing in the Lakeview neighborhood, endured 10 feet of water in his own house. Both Baker and Daniels had to leave behind their flooded homes and lost most of their belongings. Despite the hardships, Baker reassures Daniels that they will persevere.
October 3 marks the first day back to school for Archbishop Rummel High School, an all-male institution, since Hurricane Katrina devastated the greater New Orleans area on August 29. In Jefferson Parish, within the proximity of Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is reopening six high schools and 30 elementary schools this week. While the majority of schools in the archdiocese will likely remain closed until January or later, the superintendent of schools, Rev. William Maestri, expresses hope for some to open earlier.
According to Father Maestri, in the final two weeks of September, the archdiocese reopened schools outside of New Orleans, allowing approximately 15,000 Catholic school students to resume their education. The reopening of Catholic schools in Jefferson Parish will bring the total number of returning students, attending schools under the archdiocese, to about 30,000. Prior to the hurricane, nearly 50,000 students were enrolled in approximately 100 archdiocesan schools. All of these schools had temporarily closed after the storm.
Daniels and his family have temporarily settled in a rented home in Laplace, Louisiana. He expresses his happiness at reuniting with his friends at school. Daniels is the president of the school band and carries his trombone in its case. He mentions their efforts to rebuild their marching season and mentions an upcoming competition.
Baker, on the other hand, is currently residing in Houma, Louisiana. Despite the challenges, he is grateful to still have his job. Unfortunately, his wife, who worked as an elementary school teacher in the New Orleans public school system, expects to have lost her job due to the hurricane. Baker wakes up at 4 a.m. to commute the 70-mile distance to Metairie, arriving shortly before the school day begins at 6:50 a.m.
To accommodate the large number of students who are still displaced, Archbishop Rummel, along with some other Catholic schools in the area, will implement a double shift schedule known as "platooning." In the morning shift, the school primarily enrolls students who were attending Archbishop Rummel before the hurricane struck. On this first day of school after the hurricane, the turnout is high, with only about 100 out of the original 1,300 students in 8th-12th grades absent. Additionally, some displaced students from other flooded high schools have been added to the morning shift.
Beginning on October 5, Archbishop Rummel will introduce an afternoon shift consisting of approximately 1,300 additional students who have been displaced from other high schools. This afternoon shift will be open to both male and female students.
However, it has come as a pleasant surprise to see numerous families returning to the town, along with a significant number of students who have re-enrolled at Archbishop Rummel. Father Maestri anticipates that the challenge of reopening Catholic schools in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes will be even more arduous. The issue of housing is becoming increasingly prominent, he explains. While it is possible to have open schools, access to food, and job opportunities, the primary concern remains: where will families and students reside? A vast majority of homes in these parishes have suffered severe damage and are no longer habitable.