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School may be closed, but learning continues
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hurricane Katrina gave thousands of school children a vacation no one wanted, and the break from schoolwork in Mississippi is expected to last as long as seven weeks.
Some students transferred to other schools, and many already have resumed classes in their own school. Others in shelters and scattered throughout damaged communities are still not back in school.
"While this is certainly a challenging time for our educational community, we do have some good news," said Hank Bounds, state Superintendent of Education, in a letter posted online Sept. 12. "Many of our school districts are reopening this week, and we expect all of our school districts to reopen by the first or second week of October."
The state Department of Education is reopening damaged schools and locating displaced students in other districts. Portable classrooms have been brought to many schools until existing buildings are repaired or rebuilt. Exceptions are being made that allow students from damaged or destroyed schools to transfer smoothly into other schools.
Carla Stanford, child and family development area agent in Pontotoc with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said parents should monitor their children's reactions to the disaster, especially when preparing them to continue their education.
"Children don't have the same reasoning skills or emotional needs that adults do," Stanford said. "Parents need to understand that children are going to process this disaster, whether it relates directly to them or indirectly."
Encourage children to talk about their feelings and ask questions. Children need help preventing stress from reaching a crisis. Stanford said school and structured days can help children cope with the disaster.
"It's fine if children are not in school while they are in transition because of the hurricane," Stanford said. "Days should still be structured, and children should not be allowed to sleep all day or watch television and be inactive."
Some children are enrolling, even for just a few weeks, in the school district where they are temporarily living. Stanford encouraged this if it is in the child's nature to enjoy meeting new people and facing new situations. For children not comfortable in new situations, it may be best to keep them with the parents and return them to school once they can resume a more normal life.
Stanford encouraged parents not to let their children stop learning. Whether in a shelter, hotel, or living in some other temporary arrangement, Stanford said parents can take their children out to see and do things and learn about the community in which they are staying.
"Learning does not happen just in the classroom," Stanford said.
She said parents can associate with a home school group to take advantage of their activities or can go to the local school and request books and activities for their children to do while they are not in school.
Contact: Carla Stanford, (662) 489-3910