New Orleans public schools will remain closed through Sept. 7 after powerful Hurricane Ida swept through the city Sunday, leaving the entire city without electricity, NOLA Public School district officials said Tuesday.
“As work continues, schools will remain closed until there is significant improvements in power throughout the city,” district Communications Director Rich Rainey wrote in an email Tuesday night.
He said the district will provide a more detailed update by Sept. 7. Rainey said the district had assessed about one-third of its buildings as of Tuesday afternoon and none had significant damage.
Though parts of the city began to regain power Wednesday morning, more than 169,000 households remained without electricity.
KIPP New Orleans Schools CEO Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise said NOLA Public Schools staff had a district wide meeting with charter school leaders for the second day in a row Tuesday. On Monday, she said district officials asked school leaders to hold off on damage assessments, but on Tuesday she said she was able to visit all nine of KIPP’s campuses. The charter group enrolls roughly 14 percent of the city’s 45,000 students.
“We, along with most other schools, are doing our facility assessments today,” she said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “We should have a picture by tomorrow of how buildings fared.”
“I’ve been around to all my buildings today and structurally everything is sound,” she said. “There are some minor things like fences and trees but structurally everything is good.”
“On our NOLA-PS call we basically talked about trying to set a timeline by which we name a timeline for schools to reopen, but there’s nothing definitive,” she said. “Obviously no one is going back to school this week — we just have to wait and see what the power situation is like.”
She said school officials are trying to help direct families and staff who stayed behind to city cooling centers and food distribution sites.
“There’s a couple food and water stations and cooling stations opening up across the city so we’re trying to get that out to families who may have stayed,” she said.
Crescent City Schools CEO Kate Mehok said school reopening is largely dependent on electricity and the three-school network is also cognizant of staff and families needing time to assess damage, clean out refrigerators after at least two days without power and possible post-storm relocations should the power outages continue in summer heat.
“We asked staff to spend the next few days taking care of themselves and their families and then we can start formulating plans,” Mehok said in a text message Tuesday.
Without definitive information from Entergy New Orleans, the city’s electric utility, leaders are discussing a possible return next week — but still much depends on when power is restored.
Sabrina Pence, the CEO of Firstline Schools, echoed other school leaders.
“Right now, we are in assessment phase,” she said. “We’re deploying our folks to our buildings to check for any damage.”
As of Tuesday, she said staff had only found minor problems, such as a few broken windows.
“Let’s figure out where we’re going to be. How are our buildings? How are we going to get everything up and running?” she said.
“We don’t know exactly what ‘awhile’ looks like,” she said. “I would say (Wednesday) or Thursday we’ll have a better idea and be able to update the community.”