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Cleanup work is ongoing at South Lafourche High School – one of the state’s hardest-hit campuses from Hurricane Ida. Lafourche plans to return to school in the coming weeks ahead, though officials say there is work to be done to get to that point.  

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley toured parish schools today and said that he’s optimistic that Lafourche will return to school and offer quality education post-Hurricane Ida.

Dr. Brumley and Lafourche Schools Superintendent Jarod Martin both met with The Gazette outside of South Lafourche High School – one of the stops on a parish-long tour Dr. Brumley was given to assess Lafourche’s damages.

The leading state education official said Lafourche did get hit hard, but he’s impressed with the parish’s response to begin rebuilding.

“I’ll tell you one of the things I’ve been so impressed with here is just the coordination with all of the local officials,” Dr. Brumley said. “The school system, the parish government, the law enforcement, they all appear to me externally looking in, to be working well in a coordinated effort to try and get this community back going again as soon as possible.”

Martin said work is going on non-stop around Lafourche Parish schools to try and re-open as quickly as possible.

He said more than 300 contractors have been dispersed around the parish’s campuses to do repairs, clean-up work and any other jobs needed to get campuses back to working condition. The parish has also begun employing companies to dehumidify campuses that may have had water damages from roof damage or flooding.

Martin said he does not have a set date for Lafourche’s school re-opening, but said that it’s possible - if not likely - that some portions of the parish will start sooner than others.

If that happens, feeder groups will all return together at one time.

For example, all of northern Lafourche’s schools will return on the same date, and the same for central, then south Lafourche.

Martin said it’s “almost a guarantee” that northern Lafourche would be the region to return first, but that electricity will be the deciding factor.

“But all three regions will get a complete, full school year,” Martin said.

Dr. Brumley said the state’s No. 1 goal is to return students, but to do so safely. Right now, there are 250,000 students out of school in all of Louisiana – a number that by next week should be below 200,000.

Dr. Brumley said in touring the state, the Bayou Region was among the hardest hit regions he’s seen – if not the hardest hit.

“Several of the schools here took a hit and have structural damage,” he said. “Around the state, a lot of places are waiting on electricity or running water. It’s not as simple as that here. … Safety is first and foremost. And if that means that we just have to pause the school system for a while, then I think that’s the smart thing to do. And then once Mr. Martin is confident in that return date, the school system can move forward, make that announcement and notify parents.”

Dr. Brumley said he also wants to make sure that when Lafourche does return, they’re doing so by offering the best possible education for the parish’s children – a message which Martin echoed.

Lafourche is among the top school districts in the state with several schools in the district receiving excellent annual grades.

To return is easy, but to return at that standard is the challenge, but it’s a challenge that both Dr. Brumley and Martin said Lafourche will meet.

“We need to make sure that we have quality instructional days and not haphazard instructional days,” Dr. Brumley said. “Whenever the school system feels confident that they can safely bring everyone back to school and have those quality instructional days, then that’s when they should go forward and do that.”

Martin stressed that while the parish has had damages to many of its campuses, he believes that quality of education will not be interrupted when classes resume.

“It’s very possible that kids will not be in their old classroom. It’s very possible that we have some small little changes and tweaks like that,” Martin said. “But we believe we are going to be able to come together and pull this off.”

Dr. Brumley said after seeing how Louisiana and Lafourche schools have handled previous storms, COVID, world issues and all of the other challenges in the past 18-24 months, he’s confident that we are in good hands.

“We haven’t seen normal in a long, long time,” he said. “But we know that having schools up and open is part of normalcy in a community, and in a community like Lafourche that’s close-knit, we certainly are aware of and appreciate the impact that having schools back open will have on the people here.”

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