Texas schools shuttered by Harvey could stay that way awhile

AUSTIN, Texas — Schools across Houston and parts of Texas’ Gulf Coast will remain shuttered through Labor Day — and probably much longer — because their buildings and surrounding infrastructure will require extensive repairs even after Harvey’s unprecedented floodwaters subside.

The 216,000 students in the Houston Independent School District, the largest in Texas and seventh-largest in the nation, were supposed to start classes this past Monday. Instead, many fled homes flooded by the storm.

Hurricane Harvey

Space Station camera captures views of Hurricane Harvey (NASA)

NOAA: Hurricane Harvey To Batter Texas With Rain (The Associated Press)

Volunteers out in force on flooded Texas roads (The Associated Press)

Harvey roared ashore last week as a Category 4 hurricane and damaged school buildings in many coastal towns before unleashing unprecedented rainfall on much of a 200-mile (320-kilometer) swath of Texas stretching north to Houston.

More than 200 school districts and charter schools statewide canceled or delayed classes. It remains unclear when many could fully resume, since ongoing flooding has made it impossible for officials to get a complete assessment of the damage.

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“We’ll still have districts next week that can’t open and we know that,” said Lauren Callahan, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman.

Other major storms around the country have kept schools closed for extended periods.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New York City’s public schools closed for a week, then opened to find heat and cafeteria facilities not working on some campuses and others continuing to be occupied by storm evacuees.

Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005, it was months before even a few public schools reopened. Of the city district’s roughly 125 schools, fewer than 20 escaped largely undamaged. So many people fled that district officials urged parents to enroll their children in schools close to where they were evacuated — including thousands transplanted to Houston — rather than trying to return.

New Orleans public schools had around 60,000 students before Katrina but only about 12,000 were enrolled by the end of the school year. The University of Tulane’s stately New Orleans campus also closed for months for the first time since the Civil War.

In Texas, the Gulf Coast beach town of Rockport took a direct…

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