Meet Your Neighbor: Holly Holland couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else

John Guidroz

Holly Holland celebrated her fifth year as the Calcasieu Parish School System’s public information officer back in February. Still, each day brings on a new set of challenges.

“This week is a perfect example,” Holland, 30, said of Monday’s severe flooding, which forced schools parishwide to close for the rest of the week.

Navigating more than a year’s worth of unexpected events —COVID-19, two hurricanes, a winter storm and the recent flood — shed new light on the importance of communication, Holland said. Last summer, School Board staff worked diligently on its plan for students, faculty and staff to return to class. The priority was making sure families knew their children would be safe. That message was further emphasized after Hurricanes Laura and Delta damaged schools throughout the parish.

“We found the need to communicate with families that even though the classrooms may not look like they did before, the students will be loved and cared for,” she said.

Academics remains a priority for the district, but these difficult events shifted the focus to checking on the emotional and mental well being of students, faculty and staff. She spoke of the strength teachers and staff have shown on a daily basis, despite dealing with the hardships of last year’s hurricanes and other weather events.

“That speaks volumes about the people working in our schools,” Holland said.

Holland faced her own set of challenges last year. She was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child, Claire, when Hurricane Laura made landfall in late August. Holland, who found out at 23 that she is a Type 1 diabetic, was already working through a high-risk pregnancy.

“It quickly became a reality that I was not going to deliver my daughter in Lake Charles,” she said. “It was heartbreaking because this is home. It seems small and trivial in the grand scheme of things, but this is the community we love.”

Holland gave birth to Claire Sept. 11 at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. She said she was fortunate to have Dr. William Groves, her local OB-GYN, there for the delivery.

“We wanted to bring (Claire) home so badly, but not knowing what we were coming home to was frightening,” Holland said.

Holland, her husband, Michael, Claire and their 2-year-old son, Wes, returned to find their home standing after Laura. She said Michael’s unending support throughout last year was crucial.

For Holland, the biggest quality she notices in Southwest Louisiana residents is their resolve.

“Despite everything we’ve gone through, the community still rallies around each other,” she said. “When a need is there, the community meets it. I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else. I’m grateful they will be able to see the strength of the people here.”

 
 

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Holly Holland is the spokesperson for the Calcasieu Parish School Board.

Special to the American Press

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