(Kentucky News Connection) Despite numerous challenges, eastern Kentucky schools and advocacy groups are working to make the upcoming school year as normal as possible and get kids back into the classroom.
Alissa Taylor, Kentucky state director for Save the Children, said school districts in the region have delayed the start of the academic year, and are working to approve a new start date. She explained schools are the focal point of many counties in eastern Kentucky, and with some buildings destroyed, community hubs have disappeared, too.
She pointed out her staff is working to ensure teachers have supplies.
"And not only the structural rebuilds of schools and classrooms," Taylor stressed. "But all of the materials that have accumulated over the years and teachers have poured their hard-earned money into to make a fun and engaging environment for kids."
The flooding has killed at least 37 people. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are expected to visit communities in the region today, along with Gov. Andy Beshear.
Greta Wetzel, team leader of the Eastern Kentucky flood response for Save the Children, noted disasters can erode children's sense of security, and negatively affect their behavioral health and ability to learn.
"We know that this is going to have an emotional impact on children," Wetzel emphasized. "We want to ensure that we are there to help support them. With all of their mental-health needs, as they are rebuilding and returning to learning."
Taylor added given the lack of basic infrastructure in some regions, local school districts will coordinate to place children in nearby schools.
"The water infrastructure and power grid, those are going to take a very long time to repair," Taylor acknowledged. "We're looking at families going months possibly without a water source at their home, roads being rebuilt, it's just going to take a very long time to get these communities back on track. "
Save the Children has set up the Eastern Kentucky Flood Crisis Fund for donations to help deliver water, hygiene kits, diapers and other essential supplies to residents.