You can hear the frustration of Cade Brumley, Louisiana’s superintendent of schools: "A ton of momentum that we had, we are going to have to rebuild it again.”
As the top education official during the COVID-19 crisis — now in its fourth deadly wave — Brumley has seen the extraordinary disruptions caused by children being out of school. Students and teachers, and families, tried to adjust with distance learning.
It was momentum we were seeing, as about three of four public school students were back in classes by the end of May. Brumley and his colleagues in school districts were using new federal money for catch-up programs like vastly expanded summer school.
Hurricane Ida now presents new challenges. Twenty-five affected districts are totaling up the damages, some of them very severe from Ida’s high winds. There was roof damage in Brumley’s former district, Jefferson Parish, but many parishes will suffer more severely.
Those parishes will now be faced with the challenges of rebuilding and associated bureaucracy with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Parishes in southwestern Louisiana have been dealing with those issues since hurricanes Laura and Delta a year ago.
As a consequence of the pandemic, and the lack of resources of many families in Louisiana, scores were down in public schools. Lack of broadband connections was just one of many problems. Key test scores from springtime exams fell in math, English, science and social studies.
We are confident that school officials will try to get buildings up as soon as possible after Labor Day. But rebuilding, both in structures and learning, will present new challenges for our state.