Roof repairs

Workers prepare to place tarps over exposed plywood on a roof.

The Vernon Parish School Board is considering reopening schools in the district on different dates, with the first schools potentially opening as soon as Sept. 14, according to officials. 

Superintendent James Williams confirmed the consideration Friday. In an official statement release, Williams said the school board has taken the first steps necessary to begin making repairs at schools heavily damaged by Hurricane Laura, and that schools that experienced the least amount of damages may be re-opened ahead of those who need more intense repairs. 

According to Williams’ statement, the school board has submitted Requests for Proposals from professional mitigation and stabilization companies to secure temporary roofing, and to clean and sanitize water damaged areas at schools that experienced severe roof damage. 

Williams listed those schools with severe roof damage as being Hicks, Pitkin, Anacoco Elementary, East Leesville, West Leesville, Vernon Middle, and Rosepine Elementary. Williams said all those schools also experienced water damage in classrooms and auxiliary buildings. 

According to Williams, once the repair projects are completed then the process of re-opening of schools will begin, but he added that it is very likely some schools will be opening sooner than others. 

“We are working around the clock to get these schools open as soon as possible. We know our kids need to be in school as soon as possible,” Williams stated. 

As of Friday, Williams said power has been restored to all schools except Leesville High School, West Leesville, Pitkin, and Hicks. 

Several Vernon Parish schools have yet to distribute chromebooks to students to allow for virtual instruction to take place. Williams said the school board has been in contact with those administrators to reschedule those distribution dates and to ensure teachers have their virtual lessons ready for the same first day of school as students attending classes in-person. 

Williams did not address the continued struggles for some areas to have internet restored since the devastating category 4 storm struck the area, but did acknowledge the hardships families in the district have endured over the past week.  

“People have lost houses, other properties, and all services. One student even lost her life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all these people and their families. We will return as soon as possible and as safely as possible, and we will come back even stronger than before,” he stated. 

Williams did not make any comment as to whether the differing re-opening dates of schools throughout the district could affect state testing schedules. 

Vernon Parish schools have yet to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year. Initial opening dates had been rescheduled twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, having been expected to reopen on Aug. 31 before Hurricane Laura impacted the area on Aug. 27.   

The school board is scheduled to have its first public meeting since Hurricane Laura on Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

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