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Students, parents preparing for school away from home

Karen Curtis came prepared for her son Lewis Cochran to have toenroll in a new school after fleeing Hurricane Katrina.

“We packed school bags to get out,” the Chalmette, La., womansaid Tuesday as she discussed school plans with Brookhaven HighSchool Principal Susan Chapman at Faith Presbyterian Church.

Curtis even had a copy of her son’s class schedule to discusswith Brookhaven officials. Cochran, 15, is in ninth grade.

With many families likely not as prepared as Curtis, Brookhavenschools Superintendent Lea Barrett and other administrators visitedshelters to distribute forms and gather information on new studentswho will be part of the district. Barrett said administratorsunderstand that records are not available and are seeking basicinformation about students.

“We know it’s a stressful time. We want to make it as easy aspossible,” Barrett said.

Barrett said principals will be at the schools Friday from 9a.m. until noon to assist parents in registering their children.She said school buses will come by the shelters Friday morning totake parents and students to their respective schools.

During Tuesday’s visits, Barrett said officials got names andinformation from about 40 children. However, she said many parentswere away from the shelter tending to other business.

“When we go back today, I would not be surprised if we got thatmany more,” Barrett said.

Barrett said children staying with local relatives also mayregister for school Friday. She expected those students to push thetotal to between 120 and 175.

The restart of classes in Brookhaven and Lincoln County schoolshas been pushed back to Monday. Classes had been scheduled toresume Thursday, but officials cited fuel and road conditions asreasons for the delay.

“On some of the roads, I’m not sure a bus can get through,”Barrett said.

In the county school district, individual schools will handleregistration Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until noon. Officialssaid they are prepared to accept the students.

“As long as they spend the night in our school district, we’regoing to take them,” said Stan Long, who represented county schoolsat a Red Cross meeting Tuesday.

Barrett said the Lions Club and a private individual aredonating book bags for new students to use when they return toclass. She said the district is in good shape with some otherschool necessities.

“We can pretty much take care of the basics – the pencils andpaper – for the children,” Barrett said.

However, other items may be needed for an extended stay. Barrettsaid anyone wishing to assist with the school supply efforts maycontact Brookhaven Elementary School Principal Pam Fearn at (601)833-3139 for information about what items are needed.

Cochran shrugged when asked what he thought about startingschool in a new place. Friend Christian Rauch, a fellow 15-year-oldfreshman, had a quick answer.

“I’m excited,” said Rauch, while also praising the environmentat the shelter. “It’s been good. The food’s good.”

Curtis said the family had no choice about the new school.However, she said she had heard good things about the schooldistrict and was impressed with local teens’ willingness to help atthe shelter.

“People have been just great,” she said.

Curtis said she does not like change.

After being displaced by Katrina, she mentioned family effortsto find employment and another place to live. She said theirLouisiana home still had water up to the roof.

“We’re probably not going back to the parish for a couple ofyears … if we ever return,” Curtis said.