• 70°

CASSANDRA JENKINS — The importance of getting back to school

While the Mid-County area was spared the brunt of the wrath of Tropical Storm Imelda — which dumped more than 40 inches of rain in Southeast Texas in less than three days last week — one thing affected us all: school closure.

With surrounding cities under curfews and others under water, the independent school districts across the area made the wise choice to close their doors and keep the safety of their students and staff in the highest regard. While this was the best and smartest option at the time, getting back to school now is of the utmost importance.

Port Arthur, Port Neches-Groves and Nederland ISD schools all returned to campus this past Monday, while others in surrounding areas were delayed until Wednesday. Some were not so fortunate, such as Beaumont United and Central High School in Beaumont, which closed indefinitely.

Parents are struggling across Southeast Texas to assess their homes, help their friends and families and spend their free time volunteering to the areas in need the most. Knowing their children are in a safe and caring environment can lessen that stress load just a little bit, as well as benefit their children.

Kids will always be kids. They will tell you they are sick, give out a measly cough and express their need to stay home from school. They will cry and scream until they’re blue in the face if they know an upcoming test will be hard and they haven’t studied. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes not. However, leniency, especially after a disaster can be counterproductive.

Research often shows that students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year are more likely to fall behind and possibly drop out. While all students miss school after a natural disaster, through no fault of their own, these disruptions, if not made up properly, can be detrimental to their education and mental health.

Children whose lives were turned upside down benefit from the return of normalcy and routine provided by going to school. Being able to see their friends and interact with their favorite teachers can help them heal from the stress that may be accompanying them at home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives tips on helping students cope after a disaster. At the top of the list: Talking. Teachers are encouraged to talk to students about what happened while remaining calm and setting an example. Another important tip is giving children a place that feels like home. Making sure they feel safe, secure and taken care of can go a long way in their recovery.

When a child and parent have lost everything after a disaster, returning to normal can seem like an un-accomplishable task, but the routine of getting your child up and ready for school and allowing them to maintain their usual routine can help both parties.

No one in Southeast Texas was prepared for another storm of this magnitude only two years after Hurricane Harvey, but we all made it through then and will continue to do so after Imelda. So no matter how hard it may seem, returning to school is a child’s best chance at recovery.

Cassandra Jenkins is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at cassie.jenkins@panews.com.