District preparing to accept children from coastal areas|[9/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

New student registration

The Vicksburg Warren School District will hold registration for transfer students from areas affected by Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday morning. Parents are asked to go to the central district office, 1500 Mission 66, to register or to call the office at 601-638-5122.

The Vicksburg Warren School District is preparing to accept 250 to 300 new students transferring from districts in coastal areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, Superintendent James Price said Friday.

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“We’ve developed a contingency plan to deal with this,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge, but I’m confident we’re a good, strong community that will rise to the occasion.”

Schools here were closed all week and are expected to reopen Tuesday after a previously scheduled Labor Day holiday.

Price said with the relocation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees from New Orleans to Vicksburg, he’s expecting at least some increase in student load for the 9,000-student district.

“We’ll do what we can to help these people. We’ll take it as a plus because we’ll be adding a lot of new folks to our community,” he said.

State Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, said approximately 40,000 students will need to be transferred from devastated coastal areas, and Mississippi has received waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to get out of “No Child Left Behind” restrictions, which will help the school systems save money.

“The state is focused on taking care of the children from stricken areas and helping them assimilate into a new area; however, money is going to be a real problem for the state,” Chaney said.

But despite the shortage of state funds, he said the state will reimburse counties that are taking in students.

“Our taxpayers won’t be paying for this,” Price said.

Price said he’s talked to many retired teachers who are willing to offer their services.

“We’ll all have to do what we can to make the best of it,” he said.

Also, the Mississippi Department of Health is offering 60-day provisional enrollment status to students transferring from affected areas, meaning students are not required to present immunization records prior to admission to any school or licensed child-care for 60 days.

Separately, Price said a dependable supply of diesel fuel for its 138 buses has been secured at the North Washington/Haining Road facility designated for emergency vehicles. The buses log about 12,000 miles a year with an annual gas budget of about $850,000.

“We won’t be competing for pump space (with private vehicles). We’ll start filling up these buses today,” he said.

Eleven of the schools in the district had power as of Friday, all except Bowmar Avenue Elementary and Warren Central High School.

Price said although he expects the two to have power by Tuesday when classes resume, they will remain closed until power is fully restored. Restocking kitchens has also been under way as power was restored.