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Feds to reimburse system for cost of Katrina students

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Congress is repaying the kindness Hartselle City Schools and school systems across the nation showed displaced students following last year's Hurricane Katrina.
Alabama enrolled approximately 5,434 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina and stands to receive more than $30 million in reimbursement from Congress for textbooks, desks, chairs, additional bus routes and staffing used to accommodate them.
According to the State of Alabama Department of Education, the Hurricane Katrina Education Aid Package, which includes support for both K-12 and higher education, offers K-12 schools up to $6,000 per displaced student and up to $7,500 for those students enrolled in special education.
"Every school in Alabama enrolled at least one student from Mississippi and Louisiana. Many enrolled hundreds of students," State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton explained. "Those students came with no school textbooks, no permanent school records, in many cases no clothes, and in almost all cases with more psychological and social needs than many of us can imagine. Addressing these needs cost money."
Hartselle City Schools enrolled 18 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina and as of Jan. 3 two of those students remain enrolled. At a minimum of $6,000 per student, the school system could receive as much as $108,000 from Congress.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed said the Hartselle City School System helped these students without any thought of reimbursement.
"With any student that comes in we try to help and serve any need they may have, regardless of if they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina," Reed said "Yes, we did have some extra costs for classroom supplies and such for these students, but it didn't strip us of funds by any means."
Congress said funds totaling $1.6 billion will be dispersed quarterly this year to all schools throughout the country who welcomed students displaced by the hurricane.
"The education community's response to Katrina has been overwhelming," U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said. "Schools across the country have opened their doors and hearts to these children. They need and deserve this support."