When the deadly hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August, 2005, it devastated the public school system.  Students’ families suffered deaths and disruption, many of them being evacuated to other cities and states.  Most of the school buildings were battered and polluted.

The state stepped into the chaos, sponsoring new charter schools over the following months.  Barbara MacPhee, who had been the award-winning principal of the magnet New Orleans Center for Science and Math, was asked  to open one of the less damaged school buildings and create – within three months -- a new Charter Science and Math High School.

The assignment was daunting:  finding children without records and addresses, hiring new teachers, making the a/c and plumbing systems functional in the old building, rounding up supplies without an adequate budget, and establishing new record keeping methods.  All without much leadership or coordination between state and city authorities.  With extraordinary patience, persistence, and skill she prepared for opening day in January, 2006, and invited me to record that week with my camera.  

Today “Sci-High” serves over 300 students with an open-admissions policy, and meets a high standard of success and teaching innovation for its at-risk population.  These photographs have been exhibited at the school, and are published and displayed by the New Schools for New Orleans organization.

Here is what the old school looked like after the storm, and the neighborhood where the children were living.:

On opening day the school was a welcoming chaos:  students still registering, but new teachers in place.

Sci-High students - excited to be back in school