‘A light waiting ahead’: Students displaced by Hurricane Harvey return to their schools, if not their homes

Image of Tamira Miller making her bed in a classroom where she and her children sleep

Tamira Miller makes her bed in the classroom where she and her four children sleep on air mattresses at First United Methodist Church. They spend their days at Family Promise, a nonprofit organization. (Michael Stravato/For The Washington Post)

The smell of fresh paint lingers in the hallways of C.E. King Middle School. The floors are newly tiled. The choir room, which Hurricane Harvey’s floods turned into a four-foot-deep and moldy swimming pool a year ago, gleams with new carpeting. The library sports a basketball theme, a tribute to the Houston Rockets player whose family foundation helped pay for new furniture and equipment. In his renovated office, Principal Raff Saeed keeps a stack of cards and letters sent by students from out of state.

“As hard as it may be to see beyond the Harvey aftermath,” a girl named Ariel wrote in multicolored hues, “there is a light waiting ahead.”

That light remains still farther away for thousands of southeast Texas students, their lives sundered by the storm, which left death and destruction in its wake a year ago. Harvey — and its record rains — is long gone. But life may never be the same for thousands of children who spent the past school year — and will spend the one that just began — without a home. Their schools have been rebuilt. Their lives have not.

With another monster storm, Hurricane Florence, swirling in the Atlantic Ocean, the plight of schoolchildren in Texas illustrates the enduring consequences wrought by major hurricanes.

Nearly 69,000 students from Houston and surrounding counties displaced by Harvey were still not back in their homes in May, the end of the last school year, according to the Texas Education Agency. Some drifted between shelters or the homes of relatives and family friends. Others hunkered down in motels, trailer parks, campgrounds, cars. 09-11-18

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