Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jesuit's State of the School

Jesuit High School New Orleans has been having State of the School meetings on the East Coast this week. Last night I went to the meeting at Regis High School in New York City to meet with Fr. Anthony McGinn, SJ, and Pierre DeGruy, Jesuit's Alumni Director to find out what happened to Jesuit, what is happening with Jesuit, and what will be happening with Jesuit. The powerpoint and video were very interesting, but to spare you the details and facts which I can't remember I will hit the highlights.
1) Jesuit received 5 feet of water which stayed in the building for over two weeks.
2) The Roussell Center lost its roof.
3) The gym floor and all the equipment in the gym was totally destroyed (floor, wrestling mats, etc.) Water was 40 inches deep (because those buildings were slightly higher than the basement)
4) Overall, about $15 million in damages was sustained by the school (including new auditorium, cafeteria, new classrooms, switchboard, etc.)
5) Through grants, loans, and FEMA, the school is expected to recoup about 9 million (of course, who knows when all this will actually get paid.)
6) Jesuit is already open for 600 students. The first school that was flooded in New Orleans to re-open. Amazing. You should see the picture that was taken of the yard after the school was flooded. I can't believe that anything that had that much water in it could be reopened. But it has, and they are expecting 87% of the student body to return this year.

It was good to see Fr. McGinn. He seems to be thinking positively and the school is acting as one of the few beacons of hope that things can get back to normal. Nice.

I met Joseph Harris, III, '87, at the meeting. I wish I had known him in high school and in college. What a great guy. If you know him, or know someone who knows him, tell them hello. (Joseph sings jazz among his other talents.)

One thing that struck me was that, though New Orleans, the city itself I mean, was 80% flooded and who knows how much destroyed, that leaves a lot of the metropolitan area still intact. It the metro area was 1.3 million people and New Orleans has lost 400,000 of those, that still leaves 900,000 people. That's not a great big metropolis, but it's a nice size community which, as we know, has a helluva lot of capability.

I do not want this to sound racist, but the white flight that took place in the 60s and 70s needs to reverse. Those with money, talent, drive, and wherewithal need to figure out how to move back. I don't want a whitebread town with ranch homes everywhere. There needs to be neighborhoods. There needs to be architectural gems hidden on the back streets. There needs to be green spaces. There needs to be an organized community that participates in the community, with the community, and for the community. There needs to be local leaders and leadership and rebuilding of a great city. Those who can must do. But someone has to rise up and take the city and its remaining people by their collective imaginations. We must restore and resettle and renovate and remember New Orleans. Simple enough, no?

Let's get to work, people.

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