Destrehan High School reopens 141 days after Hurricane Ida

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 4:39 PM CST
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DESTREHAN (WVUE) - There was a sense of excitement in the air as 1300 Destrehan High School students exited their cars or buses for the first day of classes on campus.

The school has been under repair for the past 141 days - since Hurricane Ida ripped through Southeast Louisiana and caused Destrehan High’s roof to collapse among other things.

“Damage-wise just in this building is astronomical because we lost the whole commons (area), library and administration offices,” Destrehan High Principal Jason Madere said.

READ MORE Destrehan High School to reopen Tuesday, Jan. 18 for first time since Hurricane Ida

School leaders say construction crews worked around the clock, despite supply issues and costs, to get the campus back in shape. However, the school isn’t back to 100%, with some lingering projects that still need to be tended to with no set timetable or price tag yet.

“That’s a whole process that has to go through a bidding process,” Madere said. “That’s why we actually have temporary portables on campus right now to house our administrative team. The library has a new location to keep the library going. We’ve made adjustments. We are happy to be back.”

Returning to campus was something teachers, faculty and students like senior class president Kailie Carrige were anticipating since the storm passed.

“We’re just thrilled to be back on our own campus, on our own stomping grounds after the storm,” Carrige said. “Coming back (after Hurricane Ida) and seeing the community in shambles, it was really heartbreaking. But St. Charles Parish is strong. We’re unlike any other parish in Louisiana. I knew we would be ok rebuilding.”

The school year didn’t end for the Wildcats because they didn’t have a school. The student body reported to its district rivals at Hahnville High School for an alternating-day schedule while the repairs were going on.

Students say it was weird at first, but they quickly adjusted due to the kindness from Hahnville’s teachers and students.

“All of the staff and all of the teachers at Hahnville have been so kind to us and so welcoming. It really was a good experience being at Hahnville. It will be a story to tell for years to come,” Carrige said.

Carrige says she wants to plan a sign of gratitude with her classmates for Hahnville High as a thank you for what the school did for them in their time of need.

And while all school sites in the district sustained some sort of damage from Ida, district leaders say that getting the facilities ready for school in the storm’s aftermath is a testament to the teachers, staff and local contractors.

“The work here has been taken place seven days a week, 14 to 20 hours days, since the storm has past,” Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling said. “You can imagine the amount of work that has taken place here, the amount of people that has come together to make sure this happens.”

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