By David McClendon, Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation
Last Monday was the first day of the new school year for public school students across Texas. But for many children up and down the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Harvey has delayed the start of school – for some, indefinitely.
According to analysis by CHILDREN AT RISK of publicly available data on school closings and student enrollment, as many as 1.4 million public school students will be starting school at least a week late as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.
This includes students in 117 public school districts and nearly 1,800 schools. The number of students affected is likely far higher when students in charter and private school districts are included.
Moreover, nearly 6-in-10 of those students are classified as economically disadvantaged by the Texas Education Agency (i.e., eligible for free or reduced lunch). Although that’s similar to the state average (59%), it amounts to a late start for over 800,000 low-income children – students who rely on their schools for food and nutrition as well as education.
The large majority of students affected are in the Greater Houston area. Houston ISD – home to 216,000 students – recently decided to delay the start of school by an additional week until September 11th, as did Fort Bend ISD.
The first day of school for many students is still unknown as local officials continue to survey the aftermath of the storm. Dozens of schools in and around Corpus Christi, which bore the brunt of Harvey’s winds, have undergone severe damage and their start date is on indefinite hold.
Of course, for some students, missing a week of school is the least of their worries at this time. Thousands have lost their homes and are living in shelters or with friends and relatives. Others have left and evacuated to other cities throughout the state. These students will need our help and support in the coming months.
Parents will also need our support. Even the most well-equipped parent can feel overwhelmed right now. It is enough of a task to help kids work through their emotions in the wake of a disaster. It is even harder for parents, those directly and indirectly impacted by the storm, to provide children with a structured day, enrichment activities, limited time on their phones or computers, a healthy meal, and more.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the storm and is in need of parenting advice during this trying time, check out these parenting resources on how to cope as a parent and how to maintain positivity with your children in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.
We here at CHILDREN AT RISK will continue our research and advocacy efforts for Texas children in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Now more than ever it’s important for us to speak out for the children and families impacted by the storm, making sure that local, state, and federal officials understand the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and focus on real solutions to these challenges. In the months to come we will be relying on our friends for help as thought and resource partners as we plan to get Houston’s children back to near normal. We hope you and your families are making it through this difficult time. We are confident the Texas spirit will persevere and that as a city, region, and state, we will soon feel whole again.