Youngest evacuees prepare to start school in Miss-Lou

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Four-year-old Nicky Cullen used jumbled scribbles to draw his destroyed house Monday afternoon while his mom filled out registration information to put him on a waiting list for Trinity Episcopal Day School.

Older brother Josh, already has a spot in a sixth-grade classroom, though he’s not quite sure he’s ready to go back to school.

&uot;I’m kind of sad,&uot; he said. &uot;Because we can’t live in my house. All of my friends are in Michigan and everywhere.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Josh won’t be alone in his loneliness today, though, as around 400 hurricane evacuee children are expected to start a new school in the Miss-Lou.

&uot;It’s hard,&uot; mom Kristi Probst Cullen said. &uot;I’m hoping that it’s the right thing to do.&uot;

Sixth-grader Virginia Mitts of New Orleans has her reservations, too.

&uot;I don’t know what this school’s going to be like,&uot; she said.

Teachers, guidance counselors and administrators are preparing themselves as best as possible to meet the new students with open arms, Trinity counselor Lisa Allain said.

&uot;We are going to try to make them feel welcome,&uot; she said. &uot;Get them into a routine and let them know they are safe.&uot;

Trinity had around 50 inquiries, last week, but Head of School Delecia Carey said only 24 had confirmed to start school today. More are a possibility.

The smallest of the Natchez schools, Trinity stands to change the most if enrollment increases drastically.

Right now, Carey is trying to work with the staff she has. The school will stay within its set teacher-pupil ratio, she said. If the number of new students pushes past those limits, the school will look at new personnel.

Theoretically Trinity could accommodate 123 new students without hiring additional staff &045; that is if the students fall into the right grades. Enrollment for the year before the hurricane was around 300.

One additional classroom assistant has already been hired, and more may be coming, Carey said.

Veronica Clark, of Mandeville, was registering her two children and applying for a job Monday. She was a preschool teacher in Mandeville. Though a job is still in question, her second- and fifth-grade students will start school today.

&uot;I want them to have some sort of stability,&uot; she said.

For Martha Sue Smith, also of Mandeville, enrolling her two boys in Trinity was like coming home.

&uot;I went here, I grew up here,&uot; she said. &uot;I started crying when I came in and started seeing people. It felt great though.&uot;

Smith left Natchez six years ago, but is back staying with family now.

&uot;We know we are here until December, but we have no clue after that,&uot; she said.

Current Trinity students and families have donated uniforms that are available for new enrollees.