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Utility crews , tree crews and other emergency vehicles are parked in the Mall of Louisiana parking lot. The most recent figures from Entergy and Demco show about 220,000 customers without electric service in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes Wednesday morning.

The punishing winds of Hurricane Ida shut off power not only for homes and businesses, but also for schools across the Baton Rouge region, forcing all but a handful to cancel classes for the week.

Some of those schools, particularly those in Baton Rouge, appear on track to have power restored and be ready to open on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.

But Ascension and Livingston parishes look doubtful to be ready by then. Also doubtful is St. Helena Parish and St. James Parish on Friday announced it is pushing reopening back until Monday, Sept. 13. All of these parishes still had widespread outages as of Friday afternoon.

Assumption and Tangipahoa parishes have opted not to set a reopening day for schools, saying they are “closed until further notice.” Tangipahoa is perhaps the worst hit of all the parishes. While part of Hammond saw power for the first time Friday, the parish as a whole is almost completely dark, and utility companies say repairs could take several weeks, especially in more remote, hard to access places.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, about 150,000 customers in the Baton Rouge region were still without power. More than 100,000 customers in the region have had power restored since Ida blew through on Sunday. About 17,000 of those had power had seen power restored in the previous 24 hours.

Entergy on Friday released restoration estimates saying power should be restored by Tuesday at latest, but did not give estimates for Ascension and Livingston parishes outside the cities of Gonzales and Denham Springs.

Despite much improvement, only 58% of customers in Ascension Parish had power Friday afternoon.

Superintendent David Alexander sent out a message to parents in the afternoon and said while only one school, Gonzales Middle, suffered notable damage to a portion of its roof, 16 out of 40 school sites still lacked power, putting in doubt whether the district can start school on Tuesday as planned but expressed hope to be operating “one day next week.”

He said he would send out an update Sunday afternoon.

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Alexander said it takes 24 hours of power to make sure a school’s operating systems such as kitchen equipment and ventilation are working properly.

“We will continue to monitor the successful restoration of the power to schools through this weekend, but until we have full power at a school, obviously we are unable to open that school for student learning," Alexander said.

Livingston Parish, where 67% of customers had power Friday afternoon, suffered significant damage from Ida, particularly in the eastern end of the parish. Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy is planning to update families Monday.

Delia Taylor, a spokeswoman for the district, said school officials are buoyed by recent progress but said there’s still a lot to do before saying when schools can reopen.

“We’re trying to look at scenarios over the weekend to see what are the best scenarios of how to open up,” she said. “Let’s see what happens today and then tomorrow and then make a decision, at least as best we can.”

Pointe Coupee Parish is the only district in the region that reopened school this past week. The superintendents in West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes said they could have reopened too but opened not to because many of their employees still lacked power, but expect to reopen Tuesday.

Hollis Milton, superintendent in West Feliciana, said power issues in the parish are getting better and gas availability is as well.

“That all seems like it’s clearing up by the day, so we think we should have far less hardship by (Tuesday),” he said.

In Central on Friday, Bellingrath Hills Elementary was the only school still without power, but is expected to be restored over the weekend, and the district’s computer network still needs repairs from Cox Communications. But Superintendent Jason Fountain said reopening Tuesday looks feasible.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.