Harvey’s Impact on the School Year: Giving in Times of Need

Vol. 17 No. 1

PSN eletter vol17 no1 Houston Irma

Hurricane Harvey surprised the Houston area with a record-breaking two feet of rainfall, resulting in some of the worst flooding the U.S. has ever seen. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and a central energy hub for the nation.

The damage done by Harvey to the 300-square-mile area in the southeast corner of the state is estimated to reach $51–75 billion—helping Harvey earn the title as one of the costliest storm in U.S. history.

The city is slowly starting to put itself back together. However, devastation of this magnitude will take months, if not years, to fully rebuild. An estimated 450,000 people are misplaced, oil refineries have been forced to close (resulting in an average 10 cent increase in gas prices across the nation), and the Houston Independent School District—serving 215,000 students and employing 31,000—postponed starting the new school year by two weeks.

The Houston Independent School District is the fourth largest in the country. Fifty-three of the district’s 245 schools had major damage; 22 sustained enough damage to keep them closed for months. Two-hundred schools in the district had some form of standing water and needed extensive cleaning before students were allowed through the doors.

The district reported that 12,000 students were personally affected by damage in their homes and neighborhoods, yet everyone scrambled to meet a delayed deadline of September 11, 2017, to officially start the new school year. On that first day, faculty and staff greeted students, families, and one another with warm relief that they had made it through the greatest storm to hit Texas in U.S. history.

However, even before the official first day of classes, an unofficial start to the school year happened inside some of the local shelters. USA Today reported that volunteer teachers set up classes within shelters where misplaced families resided. One featured hero of the story is Kristen McClintock, a special education teacher for the district who organized a group of 150 certified teachers throughout the city.

Helping Harvey Victims

Not everyone is able to contribute to the Harvey-devastated community in this personal way. For those looking to make a donation but not sure where to begin, Charity Navigator is a great resource for finding a charity that makes sense for you. Here are some additional organizations you may also consider:

There are also educational resources that those in impacted areas may want to use.

And Then, Irma

Once categorized as the most powerful storm in history, Irma made its way across the Atlantic Ocean a week and a half after Harvey wreaked havoc in Texas. Fortunately for Florida, Irma quickly fell apart once it made landfall.

However, the storm retained enough gusto to knock out power for more than 60% of Florida, flooding neighborhoods and causing damage to businesses and homes. It claimed 30 lives across three states in the U.S. as well as 10 in Cuba and 24 throughout the Caribbean.

The Florida Keys were among those areas hardest hit in the U.S. More than 90% of homes in the Keys are in need of repair, and clean drinking water remains a concern for some. Aerial images show marinas completely destroyed, boats tossed ashore as if they were toys, and docks crumbled into crystal blue waters. Whole neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble.

Some school districts in Florida have yet to resume the school year, although all of them should be back in session by September 25—including districts in the Keys that were hardest hit.

Donations to the victims of Hurricane Irma can be made through the Florida Disaster Fund. The SPCA of Florida is also helping displaced animals.

Next Steps

Hurricane season isn’t over. Two more powerful storms are brewing in the Atlantic and their projected paths are again threatening the already bruised and battered U.S. Having a crisis plan (part of your comprehensive risk management plan) complete with disaster recovery is critical for all businesses—and certainly private schools—coastal or not.

We're hosting two Webinars in the upcoming weeks addressing crisis communications and disaster recovery. Even for schools not located in areas where hurricanes are common, natural disasters are still a real threat. It’s vital that you protect your community from the unexpected.

Join us for these upcoming Webinars:

For schools located in Texas and Florida, we offer these Webinars at no cost. For more information about how to register, please call our home office at 302-656-4944 or email Marie Kelly.

Additional ISM Resources:
ISM Research, Disaster Recovery Procedures
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 16 No. 1 Creating Your School’s Response and Recovery Plans
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 3 No. 1 Crisis Planning—It’s Your Job

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