Katrina: The Debris // Education

Jul 20, 2015

Of all the changes New Orleans has seen in the ten years since Katrina, the restructuring of the city's public school system is perhaps the most drastic. In place of a traditional school district, most Orleans Parish schools are now governed by a loose confederation of charter operators. What does this new model mean for students, teachers and parents in New Orleans?

The flood left a number of abandoned school buildings in its wake. Charter school networks have bought some of the buildings to remodel as new schools. Others have gone to private developers. Michael Grote of Alembic Community Development gives us a tour of one classic school building that's being converted into a high-end food market.

The former gym at A.J. Bell Jr. High School; many school buildings were damaged by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods and remain vacant.
Credit Mallory Falk

After Katrina, all employees of the New Orleans school system — about 7,500 teachers and other staff — were fired. New research suggests only a small fraction of them came back to teach in the city’s schools today. Reporter Sarah Carr follows up with two veteran educators: one who now teaches in the new school system, and another who decided to leave.

The city’s public school system is made up almost entirely of charter schools. If those schools don’t measure up, they can get shut down or taken over. The ability to close under-performing schools, or those that violate regulations, is a hallmark of school reform in New Orleans. WWNO education reporter Mallory Falk visits two charter schools during their last days as they prepare to be taken over or shut down completely. 

Jen Pike-Vassell walks first grader Bre'Yelle to class on the last day at Lagniappe Academies.
Credit Mallory Falk

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