Organizations Offer Information and Tips in Wake of Harvey

By Joetta Sack-Min

As school districts in Texas and Louisiana recover from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, LFA members and other organizations have compiled information from federal and state agencies and resources on curriculum and handling students' trauma.

It will take months, possibly years, for communities and school districts impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana to recover from the devastating floods and wind damages. In Texas, there are some 272 districts serving nearly 2 million Texas students that are included in the designated disaster areas, according to the Texas Association of School Administrators.

The U.S. Department of Education has opened an emergency response contact center to give information and offer relief from agency-based administrative requirements. School district officials may contact the Department at 1-844-348-4082 or The agency also has a webpage to handle inquiries related to Harvey. 

Representing those who are charged with overseeing public schools and the safety of our schoolchildren, several Learning First Alliance members and other children’s advocates have compiled resource pages that can help districts in need now or help others prepare for the next disaster.

Local Efforts

Houston ISD officials announced that the district will provide three free meals each day to all students, regardless of family income, as a way to help families recover.

“Some of the areas that are the hardest hit are filled with working parents whose limited funds will need to go toward recovery efforts,” Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza said in the district’s announcement. “This waiver will give our families one less concern as they begin the process of restoring their lives.”

The school district also has set up a website to donate supplies, including new and unused clothing, shoes, underwear, socks, uniforms, school supplies, canned food, and water.

The Texas PTA has launched a “Fill the Backpack” initiative and is working with local school districts to ensure students and teachers have supplies when they are able to go back to school.

The American Federation of Teachers and its affiliate, the Texas Federation of Teachers, have disaster relief funds and are offering members financial assistance and additional benefits.

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has launched a national relief effort, in collaboration with its state affiliates, to help those most severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands. In addition, TASA and AASA have information for Texas schools on state and local resources and where to find help.

Coping with Trauma

The American School Counselor Association has resources and a tip sheet to help students after a hurricane or flood, which includes this advice:

• Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
• Limit exposure to television and the news.

• Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
• Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
• Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
• Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

National PTA is sharing tips to help families have conversations with children about events like Hurricane Harvey and help children deal with emotions they may be experiencing. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) also has a report to parents on helping children cope with tragic events, whether they are the victim of such an event or learn about it by watching the news or overhearing adult conversations (also available in Spanish).  

The American Academy of Pediatrics has information for ensuring parents’ and children’s well being. "During any disaster, children are uniquely vulnerable - both to the physical threats of the storm and flooding, as well as to the long-term psychological impacts from enduring a traumatizing event,” said Dr. Fernando Stein, AAP president.

Curriculum and Lesson Plans:

The National Education Association also has compiled a list of resources for members affected by Harvey at Resources include instructional materials, and information related to the hurricane and relief efforts. The list includes NEA Member Benefits’ partners that are offering special assistance to members in need. NEA and the NEA Foundation also have opened a relief fund to support members, personally and in their schools.

The American Federation of Teachers has lesson plans on coping with damage from hurricanes and natural disasters through its Share My Lesson website. AFT also co-sponsors Colorin Colorado, which has resources and lessons specifically for English Language Learners.

myON, a digital reading platform offering unlimited access to thousands of books and daily news articles written just for kids, in English and Spanish, is providing free access to 10,000 digital books to families, shelter workers, community volunteers, and others who are helping children through this challenging period. Learn more.

Planning for Future Disasters:

Knowing that more hurricanes, floods, and other natural and man-made disasters will ultimately disrupt schools, how can district and school leaders—and all educators—adequately prepare?

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has an IT disaster preparedness guide to help district technology leaders identify best practices and develop strategies for shutting down and starting up critical services.

The National School Boards Association has resources on a webpage, “Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Students.” NSBA notes that “To help keep our students and schools safe, school leaders need to focus and ready their emergency response and recovery planning--including efforts to build a positive school climate that includes relationships of trust, respect, and open communication among students and staff-- before an incident or crisis situation occurs.”

The World Bank also offers a report, Disaster and Emergency Preparedness: Guidance for Schools, through its International Finance Corporation.

The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) is offering examples of the best communications practices from districts who have been through similar tragedies, to help those who have not been directly impacted by the storms plan how they would handle such an event.

Updated 9/11/17




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