New Orleans Schools Set for an Overhaul

Written by Patricia Hawke for

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, it left behind a number of victims, not least of all was the city’s education system, which was fractured and in disrepair. Many students were evacuated to neighboring cities, and millions of dollars worth of infrastructure at New Orleans schools was destroyed.
Now, as New Orleans slowly begins to regain some of its former glory, New Orleans schools that are part of the city’s largest school district are embarking on a new program of change that seeks to revamp the existing system and streamline it. Many new potentially path breaking changes have been proposed at New Orleans schools. These include but are not restricted to, the creation of brand new high schools. There is talk of a possible French academy. 
School Closings and Curriculum Changes in New Orleans Schools
There are also other possibly controversial plans to close at least one New Orleans school beginning next year. This is being done to weed out low performing schools that are a drain on funds. New Orleans Schools that constantly perform badly on tests or fail to attract new students will gradually be phased out. The program hopes that such threats will force schools to make some changes in the way things function.
Other plans include introducing a standard curriculum at all schools to ensure uniformity in the education system. Schools days will be extended across all New Orleans schools.  In view of the need for a focused education that leads to job opportunities upon graduation, Advanced Placement courses are being offered and students are given a chance to earn college credits at all levels.  This encourages them to think in terms of furthering their education, and greatly enhances their prospects in the job market.  These programs are being extended to all high schools to make available college partnerships and work study programs at all New Orleans schools.
Can Changes Have a Positive Impact?
Another very interesting proposal that’s being put forth is the launching of career specialty programs across all high schools. Special programs in heath for instance or public safety, give students a more specific look at career options that are available in these areas, and encourage the pursuit of opportunities in those areas.  To make sure that students have enough opportunities for advanced courses, plans are afoot to set up new high schools with advanced coursework that will prepare students for the kind of studies they can expect when they get to college.
Hurricane Katrina has created unique challenges to New Orleans schools.  The changed dynamic after the trauma of the hurricane has ensured that school authorities at New Orleans schools are no longer the authoritarian bodies they used to be.  Because of the newer and unique challenges, New Orleans schools are finding that they need to work with a number of other bodies in order to move ahead.