Storm-damaged schools face long delays

Daily Journal, wire reports

Schools in south Mississippi could be closed for weeks as they try to recover from Hurricane Katrina, education officials said Tuesdady.

School districts across the coast and farther inland suffered heavy damage Monday under the punishing water and wind of Hurricane Katrina.

It probably will be weeks before some schools re-open, with some closed indefinitely because of damages, said Assistant State Superintendent of Education Steve Williams, who met Tuesday in Jackson with state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds and other top department officials about the crisis.

“It's a terrible situation,” Williams said. “We are still gathering information, but we know that all the schools in the coastal counties received some damage, and many school districts beyond Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties were hit.”

Williams said the department plans meetings soon with Federal Emergency Management Agency leaders to discuss financial assistance under emergency declarations by President Bush and Gov. Haley Barbour.

He said school districts also will talk with private-sector insurers about their coverages and reconstruction.

“We have districts that lost buildings, buses, supplies – all those things that make school possible,” Williams said.

He also said offers of assistance have been made by departments of education from several other Southern states.