Student Evacuees

By: Erika Kurre
By: Erika Kurre

Representatives with Alabama’s Department of Education say 2,000 more students have enrolled in Alabama schools just this week.

The increase is a result of Hurricane Katrina, and is dramatically impacting school systems in the wiregrass.

As of Monday, the total of new students entering Dothan city schools is up to 67.

And officials say they do not expect the increase to slow down any time soon.

Thousands of new students have enrolled into the Alabama school systems after they were forced from their homes by the Aug. 29 storm.

Now, those in the Dothan city school system are working to place each child in a classroom, and keep close tabs on where they attend.

Dothan City schools Supt., Dr. Sam Nichols says, "It's important that we track all the children enrolled in our school system because we get reimbursed federally at some point in this school year."

Of the 76 new students enrolled in the Dothan city school system, Supt. Dr. Sam Nichols says the majority of them are attending here, at Landmark Elementary. And officials say this shift in enrollment will only continue throughout the next few months or even possibly years, as families move from temporary housing to more permanent situations.

Susan Holmes, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross Wiregrass Chapter says, "I suspect it might take that long because the situation they left is so tenuous right now. I don't think the full extent of the disaster is going to be known for quite a while. So I think we will have some Katrina evacuees that will still be looking for housing somewhere else for a good long time yet."

But as for the impact on the school system, Dr. Nichols says that is a minor issue.

His biggest concern right now is taking care of the displaced children and providing them with supplies, transportation and a variety of attendance options. School officials say Landmark Elementary School's kindergarten and first grade classes are completely full now.

Any more children planning to attend there will be dispersed throughout the school system, as the rest of the schools have not yet reached their full capacity.

There is now a total of 5,400 new students in Alabama schools.


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