The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina's Ancillary Effects

There was a whole slew of articles in Thursday's Express-News about Katrina's secondary effects on San Antonio, not the least of which is the 1,400 or so Katrina-affected children who have enrolled in a variety of Bexar County school districts:

As of early this week, at least 1,399 Hurricane Katrina evacuees had enrolled in local school districts. The majority of the students are enrolling in the districts serving the city's four shelters — Northside, North East, Edgewood and South San Antonio. Other districts are seeing a spike in enrollment as families move out of shelters and into the community or bunk with friends or relatives in San Antonio.

Judson School District had 140 hurricane evacuee students, or "Katrina kids" as several districts have dubbed them, as of Tuesday. Alamo Heights has enrolled 34, and San Antonio has 81.

San Antonio school leaders were lauded for getting students enrolled as soon as possible. But as the numbers swell, the realities are setting in.

"We know firsthand that a very small population can skew test results and give a school a bad academic rating," said Richard Middleton, superintendent of North East School District. "We're hoping for a little bit of common sense from the state and federal governments."

While Middleton's words strike me as a bit insensitive, he speaks the truth. And with FEMA not reimbursing the local school districts for textbooks and teachers, test results and everything that goes with them could be skewed because of the federal government's unwillingness to help out our local schools.

Animal rescue teams are also having a tough time finding and treating any animals who may still be alive in Katrina affected areas:

If Cindy Healer has her way, 50 dogs and cats rescued from the homes and streets of this devastated city will be loaded into a moving van and driven to Texas, where they'll find refuge at the Humane Society/SPCA of Bexar County.

Many of the animals, trapped in homes, have gone two weeks without nourishment. Some, in dire need of medical care, barely cling to life.

"Half these animals were locked in homes and they're emaciated," said Healer, director of operations at the Humane Society. "They need to get out of the state."

It's not clear if authorities will permit that. A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said authorities are becoming increasingly concerned some rescue groups are taking animals across state lines without regard for whether the animals were someone's beloved pets.

"They're picking up people's pets and assuming that, because the animals were loose, they were abandoned, but that's not (necessarily) the case," said Larry Hawkins, a USDA spokesman.

Hawkins said transporting animals out of state would complicate efforts to reunite animals with their owners.

He said his agency, working with the Humane Society of the United States and the Louisiana Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals, is deciding how much time to allow evacuated residents to claim their animals from shelters before they're allowed to be put up for adoption.


Healer said many animals, unless treated immediately, would not survive long enough to make reunification possible.

The numbers are not good, she said. Two teams of two people from Bexar County, going door-to-door in a neighborhood west of New Orleans' central business district, rescued 27 cats and dogs Tuesday and found two dogs dead.

Wednesday, they rescued upward of 27 cats and dogs; four dogs were found dead.

She expects the death rate to soar in the next few days. Whatever provisions owners left for their animals likely ran out long ago.

Animals that have lived in domesticated tranquility for years have very little chance of surviving. Here's hoping that some sort of compromise can be worked out to save these creatures.

Mayor Hardberger believes that no more than 2,000 of Katrina evacuees will reside permanently in San Antonio, while there are estimates that almost 370,000 evacuees may decide to become Texans- a one percent increase in the state's population.

Finally, colleges all across the area are doing whatever they can afford to do to help mitigate the cost of higher education for Katrina evacuees.