Page 5

Thursday September 14, 2017


The Egalitarian

Children return to city schools Juan A. Lozano

Associated Press

HOUSTON — The first day of classes for students in Houston on Monday was filled with the excitement of meeting new teachers and making new friends, while also allowing the nation’s fourth-largest city to return normalcy to an area still wending its way through the healing process following massive flooding from Harvey. Students “are excited to be back. Parents are excited to get students out of the house, to get them back to something normal, to be with their friends,” said school secretary Demitra Cain as she greeted students and parents outside Codwell Elementary. The longtime school district employee said she had probably given out at least 200 hugs on the first day of the new school year, which was delayed by two weeks due to Harvey. Superintendent Richard Carranza said the new school year was “going to be a year of not only incredible academic achievement, but it’s going to be a year of healing.” None of the district’s more than 300 schools and facilities escaped without some impact from the tropical storm, Carranza said. The district estimates Harvey caused at least $700 million in damage to schools and other buildings as well as other costs. Students at 268 of the Houston school district’s 284 campuses started classes on Monday. Houston has the nation’s seventh-largest school system, with about 215,000 students. Some of the students who

returned to school on Monday included many of the less than 1,500 students who remain at shelters because their homes and apartments were flooded. The district bused these students from shelters to their campuses, officials said. The remaining campuses will start classes on Tuesday, Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 due to ongoing clean up and repairs from Harvey, which last month dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some areas around Houston. Nine campuses were so severely damaged that their students will have to be temporarily relocated to vacant district buildings or transferred to nearby schools and three of these campuses likely will be closed for repairs the entire school year. These nine campuses served about 6,500 students last year. “We are working hard to make sure that we’re going to be as normal as normal can be, given the circumstance. We know the quicker we can get students into a routine, it allows mom and dad to get into a routine. It allows the healing to begin,” said Carranza after visiting with students at Codwell Elementary and helping serve some of them breakfast. “So we’ve burned the midnight oil for the last two weeks to make sure we can get as many schools up and running today.” For students who didn’t start on Monday or who have been staying in shelters, teachers and community groups have been working with them to ensure they get organized instructional activity until they return to the classroom, Carranza said.


County looks to buy high flood risk homes The Associated Press

David J. Phillip/AP Photo Deric Brown, center, walks his twins, Kaydence, left, and Avery, right, to their first day of school at Codwell Elementary Monday in Houston. Students in Houston are finally starting their new school year following a two-week delay because of damage from Harvey.

Chitiquita Myers, who dropped off her 9-year-old son James at Codwell Elementary, said the start of the new school year will give all her seven children a chance to focus on something good and forget about the fear they felt during the tropical storm. Myers said her home did not flood but her kids were scared and “slept in their closets” during the torrential rainfall. “They’re doing good now. All night (Sunday) they were talking about going to school,” said Myers, 33. At a news conference with Carranza, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he will continue working with the school district to offer students and their families whatever help they need from the city and local community groups. “The city, along with our

partners, are working to make sure (students’) homes are livable. There is a lot of work to be done,” Turner said. “There is no better way to demonstrate to the rest of the world that this city is open than for them to see kids in our schools and learning.” Other school districts in the Houston area have also had to make adjustments due to damage from Harvey. In the Houston suburb of Humble, Summer Creek High School will share its building for the entire school year with students from Kingwood High School, which was severely damaged. In the Katy school district, students at Creech Elementary will attend classes at an unused satellite location belonging to the University of Houston until repairs to their campus can be completed.

County officials in the Houston area are asking the federal government for $17 million to purchase more than 100 homes at the highest risk of flooding, though over a thousand residents have requested buyouts since Hurricane Harvey pummeled the area. The Harris County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, the Houston Chronicle reported . The funds would be used to buy and demolish 104 homes that are at least 2 feet (0.61 meters) below the flood plain. The grant application was based on flooding in the previous two years, so it may not apply to the estimated 136,000 buildings in the county that were flooded during Harvey. The homes being eyed for buyouts are scattered across the county and aren’t clustered in one area, said Russ Poppe, executive director for the county flood control district. But in recent days, more than 1,000 residents have expressed interest in buyouts. “It’s absolutely, by far, the most significant and the most volume I’ve ever seen,” said James Wade, property acquisition manager for the flood control district. “And, of course, this is also the largest flood event to ever hit Harris County. I guess it goes hand in hand.” Local and FEMA officials say they hope to expand and speed up the buyout process.

FEMA: Harvey losses could top $11 billion Michael Biesecker Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The head of the National Flood Insurance Program said Wednesday early estimates show Hurricane Harvey will result in about $11 billion in payouts to insured homeowners, mostly in southeast Texas. That would likely put Harvey as the second costliest storm in the history of the federal insurance program, said Roy E. Wright, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation. More than $16 billion was paid out after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is still too soon to estimate

losses from Hurricane Irma, Wright said. But he predicted that the storm damage in Florida and other affected states could rival the nearly $9 billion paid out after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Even before the recent backto-back hurricanes, the federal flood insurance program was about $25 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury. Wright said the program currently has enough cash to absorb the initial wave of payments to help homeowners get back on their feet but will need billions more within about a month. “Congress has never turned their back on a flood insurance holder, and I cannot imagine them looking away now,”

Wright said. “I am confident there will be no break in the flow of funds.” The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the total number of federal flood insurance policies nationally dropped by about 10 percent over the last 5 years, to about 4.9 million. The drop came after Congress required a premium hike in 2012 and about a half million homeowners elected to drop their coverage. As a result, scores of homes flooded by Harvey and Irma will not be covered by federal flood insurance. Those uninsured homeowners will likely have to seek grants and loans to rebuild. Wright said such federal emergency help should

be seen as a life vest, but not the full protection offered by flood insurance. Wright said that nationally there are about 10 million residential structures, twice the number of properties currently covered, in areas that could potentially flood. That includes many homes that are outside 1-in-100 year flood plains or that don’t have federallybacked mortgages requiring flood insurance policies. Wright said uninsured homeowners around the country should learn from what is happening in Houston and other flood-ravaged parts of the country and seriously weigh whether they should buy a policy.

“Collectively, we need more people covered,” Wright said. “We have to get beyond this conversation about what I have to do and what I’m mandated to do, and put folks in an educated position by which they are making a back-pocket economic decision.” Wright said that under current law, FEMA is not allowed to cancel policies covering waterfront or low-lying homes that have been flooded and rebuilt multiple times. In the wake of Harvey and Irma, he said the flood insurance program will likely be refining its policies to allow the owners of such multiple-loss homes to be bought out and moved to higher ground.

Profile for The HCC Egalitarian

The September 14, 2017 issue of The HCC Egalitarian  

Houston, South Texas begins to recover after Hurricane Harvey; Harvey could impact victims' mental health; Steps to recover from Harvey; Tru...

The September 14, 2017 issue of The HCC Egalitarian  

Houston, South Texas begins to recover after Hurricane Harvey; Harvey could impact victims' mental health; Steps to recover from Harvey; Tru...