Local News

Wake County Schools Open Doors To Katrina Evacuees

Posted September 6, 2005 10:42 a.m. EDT

— A new life means a new school for many young victims of Hurricane Katrina bound for North Carolina.

Thirty-one children who have already arrived in Raleigh are staying in the temporary Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center.

The overcrowded Wake County Public School System, which has 6,000 more students this year than last year, is working quickly to try to match potential students with schools that still have space.

"We will make space. This is important," Michael Evans, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, said. "These kids have been through enough."

Evans said the challenge was to get a handle on just how many new students there would be and how long they would stay.

"This will be our number-one home, like New Orleans was," said evacuee Janet Jones, who has two school-aged daughters.

Others, such as Althea Williams, said Raleigh was just a temporary stop.

"We're going to see how long we're going to be here," Williams said. "If we have to, that's what we'll do. We'll put them in school."

School officials said they have told principals to expedite the process of enrollment to make it easier for families traveling without school records.

As soon as families were settled, school officials added, the school system would send a team to the shelter to enroll students at one time.

Officials do not know how many children from the Gulf Coast may end up in Wake County schools because some evacuees not staying in the recovery center have already enrolled their children in area schools.

Evacuee Louis Roussell, for example, enrolled his son Joshua in Rolesville Elementary School on Tuesday.

The Roussells came to Wake Forest to stay with a friend before the storm, and they soon realized they would not have a home in the Gulf Coast to return to.

"We never, never thought we'd be in this situation," Louis Roussell said.

The Roussells were the second family to enroll at Rolesville Elementary School.

"With God's will, and if everyone's willing to help us like they are, we'll be able to get through this," Roussell said.

Other school systems in the area also have enrolled young hurricane victims. Cumberland County has welcomed 21 students, Chatham County 10 and Durham County six.