After two feet of water flooded their school last weekend, the faculty of Democracy Prep Baton Rouge school took to the streets.
They’ve spent much of the week delivering supplies, pressing items like diapers, water and clothing, to the 50-plus families out of its 280 students who were chased out of their homes by flood waters
The supplies were donated to the one-year-old charter school by Bethany Christian Church as part of that church’s flood relief outreach. It’s just one of a myriad of charitable endeavors that have emerged since the flood began focusing strictly on schools, schoolchildren and their families.
On Friday afternoon, they pulled up to Bible World Christian Center on Lobdell Boulevard.
The Pickett family evacuated here Saturday morning after their home off north Sherwood Forest Boulevard in Windsor Place subdivision flooded. About 30 members of their extended family also showed up at the center, where they attend church, after they too flooded.
They gratefully accepted the relief package from the teachers at Democracy Prep on behalf of their 12-year-old son who is just starting seventh-grade.
“Sitting in here all day ain’t doing him no good,” said father Calvin Pickett Sr. about his son, Calvin Pickett Jr. “He was getting depressed. It would good for him to go back to school.”
The younger Pickett will be returning to school Monday at a temporary location, the Baranco Clark YMCA at 1735 Thomas H. Delpit Drive.
“We want kids in schools,” said Principal Michelle Gieg. “That’s the priority.”
It’s not an ideal arrangement. They will have school from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, just four hours a day.
Schools, both public and private, throughout the Baton Rouge area have either taken on water…
The charter school’s home for the past year, Prescott Middle School, now flooded, is likely unusable for months perhaps the entire 2016-17 school year, Gieg said. Instead, Gieg is looking for a location besides the YMCA that will allow for a full day of school.
Once they arrive at school, Democracy Prep is planning to give families a second package that includes items such as sheets, pillows and kitchen utensils.
“These are designed for families who lost everything to give them some non-consumable items to start a new home,” Gieg said.
Schools throughout the Baton Rouge area are seeking help from wherever they can get it.
Several have set up fundraising accounts with websites such as GoFundMe.com or have set up registriest full of items them needed, everything from batteries to tooth brushes. Outside groups have also set up fundraising drives, ranging from charter-school sponsor News Schools For Baton to the teacher union, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
The larger school districts are also seeking money directly from East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, the second largest in the state, which is routing all its charitable donations through its nonprofit Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System.
Keila Stovall, executive director of the foundation, said she’s been getting some initial donations and plans to seek more. The purchasing has already begun in advance of Wednesday, when parish public school plan to return to work.
“We wanted to make sure there was base level of supplies in those classrooms so we can hit the ground running on day 1,” Stovall said.
Stovall said the array of new fundraising efforts, some directed at just schools, some at anyone, can be bewildering.
“It’s kind of getting overwhelming the number of people (seeking money),” said Stovall. “Everybody’s needs have increased and that goes for all the nonprofits in the community.”
One of the most burning immediate needs, she said, is for new school uniforms. For that, the school system is turning to St. Vincent de Paul.
St. Vincent de Paul had just finished giving out school uniforms, which it does every year, when the flooding hit. Now it is starting over.
“It’s not a particularly good time for you for this to have happened because school just started,” said Michael Acaldo, president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul. “If this had happened three or four weeks ago we would be in great shape.”
St. Vincent serves an 11-parish area. He said he expects to hear from other school districts in the area soon, especially hard-hit Ascension and Livingston parishes, and it will be challenge raising enough money to replace all the uniforms that were lost in the flooding.
He said the magnitude of the need is enormous. He recalls after Hurricane Katrina raising money to buy uniforms for more than 20,000 kids and said this latest weather will be similarly dramatic.
“We know the needs are going to be great, and we’re going to do the best we can,” he said.