Louisiana diocese opens schools to students evacuated by hurricane

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Children from the hurricane-ravaged Archdiocese of New Orleans have already started attending classes at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Shreveport, La., which was untouched by Hurricane Katrina.

"Our sister schools in southern Louisiana are in this devastating situation," said Ursuline Sister Carol Shively, director of the Shreveport Diocese's education office. "We have four Catholic schools in Shreveport and three Catholic schools in Monroe. We have space in most of them."

The first students had come with their parents to stay with relatives and friends after having evacuated from the New Orleans, Houma-Thibodaux and Baton Rouge areas in advance of the hurricane, which hit the Gulf Coast Aug. 29. Classes started that day in the Shreveport Diocese.

Others have since arrived at shelters in the Shreveport area, which is in the northwest corner of the state.

Shreveport offers three Catholic elementary schools and one high school; Monroe has two elementary schools and a combined junior and senior high school.

"You are welcome to attend school here just as you would in your home schools," Sister Shively said in a memo to parents who are staying in shelters.

"All students will be expected to fully participate in the spiritual life, academic life and social life of the schools. Academic performance will be documented," she added. "Textbooks and school supplies will be made available as soon as possible. Cafeteria costs ... will be processed with the completion of all necessary paperwork.

"We will make every effort we can to accommodate you," the memo said. "We are, indeed, blessed that we can 'reach out' in this manner."

"We are in an unusual situation," Sister Shively told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from Shreveport. "Louisiana has so many Catholic schools, and so many of our students want to go to Catholic schools."

Notices about the availability of Catholic education in the diocese were sent to each parish in the diocese in the expectation that families would find a Catholic church for spiritual comfort after evading the hurricane.

Shreveport and the surrounding area were untouched by Katrina. "We're in the northwest quadrant" of the state, Sister Shively said. "We didn't even get rain."

In the Archdiocese of Miami, where Hurricane Katrina first struck Aug. 25, all Catholic schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that had been closed due to the hurricane reopened Aug. 31.

At Spring Hill College, a Jesuit school in Mobile, Ala., cleanup was under way. Power was restored to the campus Aug. 30, although not all areas of Mobile have had their power turned back on.

Spring Hill said it would open Sept. 1 to faculty and staff only, and would open to students on Sept. 4, with classes starting on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

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