Learning Leader

Recovering from Harvey

It has been one month since Hurricane Harvey hit, and at least one million students across Texas were estimated to be impacted by the storm. In addition to the devastating scope of Harvey, the timing—just when a new school year was about to kickoff—left school districts scrambling to drop the plans made over summer and quickly produce new ones. Houston ISD was left with 35 damaged campuses that led to a two-week delay. 76 early childhood classrooms participating in CLI's Texas School Ready project suffered damage. A few districts, such as Port Aransas ISD, were so hard hit that classes still have not resumed. Others have undergone tremendous efforts in the past month to return to something approximating normal.

While we often hear of the physical and financial strain of building remediation and repair, perhaps an even bigger strain on districts has been logistical: figuring out where and when to perform the work of educating Texas’ youth. Districts have had to great creative, setting up portables or classrooms in alternative buildings, extending school times, and/or allowing students to attend in other school districts. Time-consuming tasks have added up, from testing air quality to replacing lost curriculum and planning community meetings to keep families informed. Some districts are extending traditional services to help families provide stability; for example, Houston ISD is giving three free meals per day to all students. Even large districts that were untouched by the storm, such as Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, have had their own logistical hurdles as they welcomed enrollees from evacuated families staying with friends and family. Many dedicated educators across Texas have worked nights and weekends to get their schools back on track, knowing full well how hard it is to make up lost ground in an already tight school year.

On top of everything, teachers may very well find themselves serving children who have experienced trauma, dislocation, and personal loss, helping them process and understand their feelings about the storm and its impacts. To aid this effort, instructional experts and child psychologists at the Children’s Learning Institute have put together a collection of lessons designed for use with children from pre-kindergarten to grade 2. These lessons are linked to popular children’s books and explore feelings of loss, fear, courage, and cooperation. CLI staff (i.e., Mike Assel, Ph.D., Valerie Kerne, Ph.D., and Jocelyn McConnell, M.Ed., LPC) also recorded a brief webinar that discusses tips for returning to school, the importance of teacher self-care, suggestions for activities, and responsive teaching practices.

CLI will also be participating in a free book giveaway for teachers hosted in partnership between the American Federation of Teachers, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, and First Book via the Essentials for Kids Fund. Elementary teachers will be able to leave with 30 free books to help rebuild their classroom libraries. Learn more here.

By all accounts, Texas has proved incredibly resilient throughout this ordeal. We wish all Texans the best in the long recovery ahead.



visit ChildrensLearningInstitute.org



Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth
7000 Fannin, Suite 2300, Houston, TX 77030

© 2015-present The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
All rights reserved.