The Louisiana Department of Education recently announced the launch of The Protect Louisiana Schools: Hurricane Preparedness Commission, Louisiana’s first statewide commission centered on solidifying the state public school system’s core infrastructures and creating operational best practices for school systems and leaders during hurricanes.
“Over the past two years, Louisiana has been catastrophically impacted by six hurricanes — two of which were among the strongest in our state’s history,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley said. “Many coastal public schools have been devastated from the repeated barrage of high winds, torrential rain, and flash floods, resulting in billions of dollars in damages – roofs torn off, hallways flooded, walls collapsed. But despite all of this, Louisiana’s students, teachers, administrators, and parents have shown unwavering resilience in the face of extraordinary adversity. They have done their part — now is the time for us to do ours.”
Brumley said the PLSHPC will bring together experts from the private sector, academia, and government to formulate comprehensive recommendations that will modernize Louisiana’s education infrastructure and equip school systems with the necessary tools to protect their facilities pre- and post-hurricane.
The PLSHPC panel is comprised of 17 individuals, including Lakewood Elementary Principal Kelli Oertling.
“I am both honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve on this commission,” Oertling said. “I hope that we are able to make actionable recommendations and guidance for both preventive and responsive measures for future storms. I bring the unique perspective of not only being a principal but also a resident of St. Charles Parish, where we experienced the most catastrophic event in our recent history.”
Along with every other school in the SCPPS school system, Lakewood Elementary suffered damage from the storm.
“Most of our employees experienced impacts from Hurricane Ida, and as a principal, I have the responsibility to make sure our employees’ needs are taken care of so we can meet the needs of students,” Oertling said. “Being a parent of two St. Charles Parish Public School students, I have a personal connection to the effect of the hurricane on our families – having to evacuate, returning to significant damage to our home, being unable to return to school, and having to live with friends while our home was repaired. Additionally, the collaborative effort of our school system’s leaders provided me with a unique opportunity to understand other schools’ needs.”