Storm Aftermath and Education

From backpacks assembled by students in Maryland to donated binders from Avery Dennison in Meridian, relief supplies continue to pour in for local schools that are now enrolling student evacuees.

"We have filled orders for over 500 students," says Dr. Judith Miller, who is the executive director for the East Mississippi Center for Educational Development. "They have registered approximately 1,000 displaced students from other areas."

While hundreds of evacuee students are now enrolled in schools throughout East Mississippi, state superintendent Dr. Hank Bounds says it will take a bit longer for many classes to resume on the Gulf Coast.

"We had about 28 schools that are either completely gone or were under 4, 5, 6, 10 feet of water," says Bounds. "I think by the end of this week we should see most districts north of the bottom three counties and Pearl River County, these should all pretty much be back in school."

By the middle of October, Dr. Bounds say all schools in Mississippi should be back operational. As for those on the coast, many will use portable classrooms.

With all classes in the state set to resume within the next month, Superintendent Bounds say sporting events are expected to resume for all schools as well, including those on the coast. However, with rising gas prices and limited funds and sometime supply, some local school officials say even this is creating some concerns.

"We are taking no field trips as of right now," says Superintendent June Wright with the Kemper County School District. "We are one of the 37 school districts in the state that is in financial trouble and it's illegal to operate in the red, so we depend on our 16th section interest to pay day-to-day operations because the Legislature did not fund us fully."

With a least a million dollars worth of Kemper County's 16th section land damaged in the storm, Wright says the embattled school district is facing some financial woes. However, it could be worse.

"The mayor of Biloxi has stated that 80 percent of his ad valorum tax base is gone and the assumption is that from Biloxi west across the coast of Mississippi, about 80 percent of their tax base is gone as well, so how that figures in for coming years, there will be real difficult questions that will have to faced by Mississippi leaders," says Bounds.