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Educators in Lake Charles face challenges returning to classrooms

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 27, 2021

As the City of Lake Charles continues to rebound from all the natural disasters in 2020, educators in the region are looking for help.

"They left with their school in shambles and now they are coming back to a new school year with their school and their classroom still in shambles," said Chantrelle Brehm.

For Brehm, a third grade teacher at Lebleu Settlement Elementary in Lake Charles, the condition of the school is not sustainable. With students returning on August 13, meeting their needs will be challenging.

"I just think about those kids who are coming from some situations that are not stable and they are coming to an end stable classroom environment," added Brehm. "It's also holding our learning and then structural time as teachers because with the walls cut out, installation cut out you have that instruction time that's disrupted."

As much as the city needs assistance, the most urgent need is housing.

Parish Police Jury member Brian Abshire explained, "There are 1,759 FEMA units housing Calcasieu Parish families with a handful of families awaiting placement in FEMA housing."

According to Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, government aid has come in, but not enough to spread evenly.

"Government has received some money, but we're asking for the same response. The same equitable response that happened in the wake of dozens of other singular natural disasters. And here we sit in Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana having endured four," said Hunter.

"There are a lot of strings attached to those dollars," said Hunter. "When we get reimbursed from FEMA dollars, even the figure of $16 million, which is a drop in the bucket by the way, we can't just take that money and say okay we're going to go put roofs on peoples houses."

There's now a grassroots effort to get the issue attention at a national level. It's called "Help Southwest Louisiana Now," and it's a unified effort to advocate for federal disaster relief funding for the southwest region. The plea for help follows months of challenges, including the pandemic and two hurricanes, and it's being repeated until it's heard in Washington.

"Business is making a comeback, but can't meet its full potential without additional federal recovery funding so our workforce will have housing and return to the region," said George Swift with the SWLA Economic Development Alliance.

As the city awaits to receive more assistance, Brehm says she'll continue to be an anchor for her students.

"Even though you have that structure will change in your classrooms you still come with that moral support, you still come and let them know that you were there for them no matter what."

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