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Kids go to class in Big Easy

first_img “I like New Orleans,” said 8-year-old Nathaniel Collins, tossing a football in the playground and explaining why he was happy his banishment to New Iberia, in Louisiana’s rice-and-sugar belt, was over. Teachers and parents said the children were mostly taking the various upheavals in stride. “They’re getting into the swing really quickly,” said Treniece Collins, a fourth-grade teacher. But the storm made its mark. “They are kind of a little bit stunned by all the changes,” said Dana Gonzalez, a science specialist sent in to help at the school’s opening. The children in Sabina Puri’s third-grade class spent part of the morning drawing houses and cars underwater. “They knew it was dangerous, scary,” Puri said. “Stability needs to come to them.” The reopening came at a time of upheaval in an already troubled school district. The state Legislature has voted to take over all but 13 of the city’s schools, after years of academic failure and financial mismanagement. Ben Franklin, recognized as one of the few successful schools, will not be taken over. Board meetings have been marred for years by racial tensions among officials and parents. And the traditional intraboard feuding has continued after the hurricane fall. But with the state set to assume much of the responsibility, the old governing structure has lost much of its sway. Moran, the school board member, sounded hopeful. “Things have improved,” she said. “We are very fortunate, in that we have people and a culture of determined individuals that will not let New Orleans fade into the murky waters of Lake Pontchartrain.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals But two months later, the signs of life – including footballs and whirling hula-hoops – were unmistakable at the noon recess at Ben Franklin, on Jefferson Avenue. “Now, parents will start to return to the city,” said the principal, Christine Mitchell, a study in motion Monday on the school’s World War I-era wooden stairwells. “I think this symbolizes to a lot of people that yes, New Orleans is back and will accommodate families. ” Beaming, Mitchell directed the flow of waist-level traffic all day long. Lourdes Moran, a school board member, was also among those who took the reopening as a healthy sign. “It shows that we do have families moving back,” Moran said. “I think this is the first of the good things to happen in the repopulation of our city.” Gathered up from temporary exile in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and elsewhere, several of the 140-odd children in attendance – the school normally has 420 – said they were glad to be home. NEW ORLEANS – A sound unusual in this still-emptied city echoed through an old brick school building here Monday: the noise made by chattering, scampering children. They were there for the first day of class in the first city-run public school to reopen in a city where education, like everything else, was stamped out three months ago by Hurricane Katrina. A handful of other schools have struggled back to life in New Orleans: parochial schools, private schools, even two charter schools. But the opening on Monday of the Ben Franklin Elementary School on a tree-shaded Uptown avenue was a milestone for a city still barely hospitable to families – and evidence, to some, that things may be changing. After the storm, the school board president predicted that no public schools would reopen this year on the city’s east bank, where most of the population lived. Nearly half of the 117 schools received a good deal of damage in the storm. last_img read more