Reaching Out

Reaching Out

City responds to victims of Katrina.

The city of Alexandria has been working behind the scenes to respond to the need for help in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Alexandria Fire Department to send 10 firefighters. In the next few weeks, the city government will dispatch several employees to join a regional team organized by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. All over town, car washes and lemonade stands have been collecting money for the Red Cross.

"The City Council and I extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims of this disaster," said Mayor Bill Euille. "As a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I urge residents to support the relief efforts to help our sister jurisdictions. The overwhelming need at this time is for monetary donations to support established relief organizations."

In the first few hours after the hurricane, the city government was already at work trying to help. Steven Mason, a public information officer with the city, says that several city employees have volunteered to go to the Gulf Coast to be part of the effort.

"The direction all jurisdictions were getting from FEMA was not to send people," Mason said. "But now that we're getting supplies down there, the city of New Orleans needs some relief."

Mason says that the Northern Virginia regional team that will help with operations for the city of New Orleans, organizing public works and information technology. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is selecting people with skills to match the needs on the ground.

"It's kind of like a government in a box," Mason said. "We've got a lot of individuals who want to help."

Although the immediate need for search and rescue is still ongoing, the city of New Orleans will need volunteers for an indefinite period of time. So city employees and residents who want to help will have many opportunities.

"They might not need you today," Mason said. "They might need you to two months from now, or a year from now."

CITY SCHOOLS are preparing to host students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and at least two students from the Gulf Coast have already registered at Patrick Henry Elementary School. Administrators expect more students to be arriving in the coming days.

"We can not begin to imagine the trauma these children and families are experiencing," said Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry. "We in the Alexandria City Public Schools are committed to doing all we can to ease the pain of these children as we work to ensure the continuation of their educational programs while here in Alexandria."

Displaced students will register in city schools under provisions of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, which addresses homeless students. The Louisiana Department of Education has estimated that more than 135,000 students will be unable to return to their schools because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed. The Mississippi Department of Education has estimated that about 35,000 students have been displaced by the storm.

"Should their families need to come here, we want to do everything we can to make it easy for them to register their kids in Alexandria schools," said Amy Carlini, executive director of Information and Outreach.