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All St. John Public School buildings are intact; no total losses, superintendent reports

LAPLACE — While St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools sustained flooding, water and wind damages as typical after a hurricane disaster, Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin reported that, as of Sept. 4, all of the district’s structures are intact, and there are no total building losses.

At this time, contractors are continuing to assess the full extent of damages in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. A detailed assessment report and details on specific school site damages are not available at this time.

Public schools are closed until further notice in St. John Parish.

“At this time, we are fully assessing our building damages and looking forward to updates regarding our local electricity anticipated date,” Dr. Hookfin said. “We will continue to assess buildings and make preparations to reopen when it is safe and according to restored area power. Our full building assessment reports will play a major factor in reopening schools.”

St. John Parish School Board approved an emergency declaration for Hurricane Ida during a meeting held via Zoom on Sept. 3.

Emergency declarations help school boards expedite the recovery process when there is not sufficient time to advertise for bids for public works or the purchase of materials, as would normally be required. However, the St. John District Attorney’s Office said every effort should be made to secure competitive quotations through negotiations.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Ida likely meets the criterion of an extreme public emergency. The School Board’s actions should be limited to activities related to tarps and debris removal at this time.

As school facilities undergo repairs, Dr. Hookfin said the emotional needs of scholars after an extreme event cannot be overlooked.

She said the unexpected closure of school can lead to depression if scholars are not given an opportunity to express themselves about what they witnessed or how they feel.

“Allowing children to talk or write about their feelings can help children cope through difficult times,” Dr. Hookfin said. “As a district we understand that children may not be getting the food and nutrition needed due to school closures. Our plan is to put processes in place to support families in need of food and as well as assist with parish food distribution sites.”

Dr. Hookfin added that the District administration is praying for family and community members during these difficult times. The community is burdened not only with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, but also the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The St. John community is strong and resilient,” Hookfin said. “Words cannot express the tenacity of our local leaders and officials to help our families in need and rebuild our community. We are thankful for the plethora of support and assistance from other school districts and communities.”