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Jefferson Parish schools being patched up, cleaned ahead of reopening

“Every single one of them is going to take a lot of work, but the good thing is we’ve done it many times."

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. —
The state’s largest school district is taking a tiered approached in getting school doors back open in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, but before any doors can open, cleanup and repairs are at the top of the lesson plan.

What Hurricane Ida didn’t take off the roof at Fisher Middle-High School in Jean Lafitte, workers were busy scrapping off Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s wet sheet rock, there’s wet ceiling tiles and insulation,” said Shawn Folks, CEO of Guarantee Restoration.

The Jefferson parish School was hard hit by the storm and right now, because of so much damage, the school district is unsure when school bells will ring again.

“Every day is a new challenge and we have to figure it out,” Folks said.

Eleven miles north, windows are still blown out at Estelle Elementary, but it’s set to reopen to students Sept. 20. The school is part of the district’s tier one reopening list, along with ten other schools. To meet that deadline, crews were in the hallways Tuesday working to clean up the mess and make repairs. It’s the same scene at schools all over the parish.

“Every single one of them is going to take a lot of work, but the good thing is we’ve done it many times,” Folks said.

Folks’ company, Guarantee Restoration, helps make it all happen. His company even helped schools in Lake Charles last year. He says a lot of repairs will have to be temporary.

“A lot of times what they do is make permanent repairs over holidays and summer break, so it may not be a full roof, it may not be a full window, but the schools are safe, they’re clean, where these kids can go back to school in an environment they can learn,” Folks said.

Crews from as far away as Maryland are working with his company, cleaning, drying, gutting and demolishing.

“There are not very many companies in the world that would be able to handle anything this big. So, we bring in partners to try and get it done in a timely manner,” Folks said.

As part of tier three, L.W. Higgins High School and 40 others are set to reopen Oct. 1. With a lot of work still to be done, Folks says classrooms will be ready.

“Our main focus is getting these schools back open as quickly as possible so the community and these kids can get back to school as quickly as possible,” he said.

Reopenings will happen in three tiers across the district. Eleven schools are part of tier one, with a Sept. 20 return for students. Twenty schools are part of tier two with a Sept. 24 return and 41 schools are in tier three, with a return date of Oct. 1.