The local newspaper has been running a very lengthy series about Katrina evacuees in Houston. Apparently more than twice as many natives of New Orleans are now living in the Houston area than in the New Orleans area. Most of the families described in the reports have permanent housing and jobs here and their children are settling into schools. A majority say they are going to remain in Houston permanently, often citing improved economic and educational opportunities as the deciding factor.
Fighting between "New Orleans" kids and "Houston" kids in some of the public schools has been a problem. Earlier this week about 25 teens were arrested after a brawl at a high school, highlighting the tensions between the two groups. One school counselor noted that these fights are occuring in schools in low income areas. "Our kids are also needy and resent seeing the donations and attention given to the hurricane evacuees," he said in a television interview.
Although we have a significant number of New Orleans kids in the suburban public schools, these children come from families with more financial means and so are not singled out for assistance. We haven't seen tensions between the kids escalate in these schools in the same way.
My neice just returned from maternity leave to her third grade classroom in a public school. There are several "Katrina kids" in her classroom who weren't attending at the beginning of the school year when she was still teaching. When she asked her friends at the school before she returned how things were going with all the additional New Orleans students they told her "we're not going to tell you, or you won't come back."
So far she is managing well, because she anticipated behavior problems related to the stress of their experiences. But she is appalled by their low level of academic achievement. They lag far behind the rest of the class, and this is NOT a high performing suburban school district she teaches in. It has plenty of low income families and a significant gang and drug problem. If you apply that factor to a teenage group then you can see how much additional stress and frustration these kids feel.
Another hurricane related news item: remember Wilma? That's the last big hurricane that whacked Florida in October. It wiped out the grapefruit crop there, opening up the east coast market for Texas grapefruit growers who have a bumper crop this year.
And then the hurricane research team at Colorado State University announced that they are predicting 17 named storms for 2006--more than they have ever predicted for a season. But there were 26 named storms this year! There's a happy thought as we move to the New Year.
Lord, send the hurricanes far away from the Gulf Coast. Send them harmlessly into the Atlantic where they will spin themselves silly and expire. Amen.