Natural disasters affect Network schools

Recent hurricanes caused temporary closings of Sacred Heart schools in Texas, Florida.

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While Convent & Stuart Hall come to the end of their the month of school, students from across the country at the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart of Houston and Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami face a completely different mid-September checkpoint.

As the first major hurricane since Wilma of 2005, the Atlantic hurricane Harvey hit Texas, specifically the Houston area, on the evening of Aug. 25 and continued into the first week of September. Severe flooding and winds up to 130 mph left the city completely untravelable and caused immeasurable property damages and physical injuries.

Unlike most of Houston, Duchesne was lucky enough to have suffered no property damage, but the community was greatly affected by the storm, as students and faculty commute from all over the Houston area.

Duchesne senior Katherine Guidry’s home, which was not predicted to be in flood zone, had three feet of water above the floor. The flooding forced Guidry and her family to live with her neighbors during the last portion of the storm. Now that school has resumed, Guidry lives with a classmate while her parents reside outside of town with other family members.

“When we evacuated, we actually had people come with a lifeboat to help us with our dog and other things and when I walked out into the street the water came right to my mid-chest area,” Guidry said. “The distance from my family has been difficult because we are not together to really support each other.”

Though Duchesne is an independent school and thus has the option to close and re-open when it pleases, Head of School Patricia Swenson decided to follow the lead of other nearby schools and suggestions from local authorities. Issues of safety and accessibility led Duchesne to keep its doors closed until the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Accommodations for the returning students included free dress, adjusted arrival and departure times and academic changes in homework for about two weeks after the start of school to ease the community into normalcy.

“I am so pleased to see Goal 3 [to educate to a social awareness which impels to action] being lived out daily within our Duchesne community,” Swenson said. “It is heartwarming to receive such a tremendous outpouring of support from our Sacred Heart families and alumnae locally, domestically and internationally.”

Shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit, warnings were sent out to the entire state of Florida for the next upcoming storm — Hurricane Irma. First striking Miami, Irma made its way up the west coast of Florida.

Located on the south eastern tip of Florida, Carrollton was not directly in Irma’s path, and like Duchesne, did not suffer from major property damages aside from loss of electricity, which was restored last week.

“The maintenance people came the day after the hurricane and worked 80 hours that week just to clean up and begin working on the electrical issues,” Carrollton sophomore Amber Johnson said. “They are really the reason we were able to go back to school so quickly.”

Carllotton was closed for a total of seven school days, before and after the hurricane hit. When the school reopened, students were told that if they did not have access to clean uniforms, they were allowed to wear appropriate free dress. Some buildings remained closed after the return of school due to the power loss, according to Johnson.

Because of its location on the water, locally owned sailboats washed up on Carrollton’s field. The boats will remain there until either an owner comes to claim them or until 60 days have passed, when the boats will be removed.

Despite the widespread destruction in the Southern states, Duchesne and Carrollton are both lucky to only have endured minimal and manageable damage. That being said, members of the Sacred Heart Network from all of the United States have made efforts to aid the disaster.

Written on an community whiteboard wall at Duchesne was the reflective question “Post Hurricane Harvey, what would you like to see happen?”

“One response that really stuck out to me was ‘The love and helpfulness that was shown to everyone including complete strangers to continue. We should love and care for each other always, not just during rough times,’” Guidry said. “I am confident that this will show throughout our wide community.”

Amber Johnson
Athletic fields outside of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart flood with rain from Hurricane Irma. Low water levels also entered part of the school building. With maximum wind speeds up to 60 mph, Irma made its way through the Caribbean, up through Florida and into Georgia in the first weeks of September. The Category 5 hurricane led to the deaths of at least 100 people and displaced thousands who suffered from severe damages to their properties.