STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — Tyrienisha Smith opened her new Sponge Bob backpack and pulled out her school supplies one by one.
The 10-year-old laid folders and loose-leaf paper on the floor. She held up two boxes of crayons, colored pencils, a purple ruler, glue and scissors.
Finally, she placed pens and pencils in a pink pencil box.
She’s ready for fifth grade.
But Tyrienisha won’t be going back to her own school.
She’s one of the young Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans getting ready to start school in Michigan. Her parents say her school probably is under water along with most of the city.
“I’m excited for going back to school,” she said.
But there is one thing that makes her sad: “I really miss my friends.”
Tyrienisha and several other youngsters registered for school yesterday in a conference room at the Best Western Sterling Inn, the suburban Detroit hotel that took their families in when they arrived last week.
Warren Consolidated School District officials gave them supplies, found slots for them in classrooms and arranged for busing and free or reduced-price lunches. They start class today.
Tyrienisha said she also has new school clothes.
She showed off silver sneakers with a pink Nike Swoosh.
“These are the shoes I’m gonna be wearing to school,” she said.
Her father, Sterling Adams, said he’s pleased to see Tyrienisha and his three other children heading back to school.
“As long as they’re getting their education, it doesn’t matter where they’re at,” he said. “We could be in Timbuktu as long as they’re in school.”
The additional students shouldn’t put a strain on the Warren Consolidated district, but that could change as more evacuees enter the state, said Dr. William Kiefer, the district’s associate superintendent of administrative services.
He said the district of 15,400 students could accept 200 to 300 new students without having to hire additional teachers.
He said state aid will provide funding for any new students. However, districts across the state could see an impact if there is a large influx of new students, Kiefer said.
Such an increase could mean that the amount each district receives per pupil could go down slightly, Kiefer said, perhaps by $10 or $15 per student if the state gets the 10,000 evacuees it is equipped to take.
“But it’s a small price to pay I think,” he said. “This is a national emergency. I can’t imagine not doing everything we can.”
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the state for any bills relating to evacuees, including education costs.
Sabrina Washington’s three children will be heading back to school with the Smiths.
“I have no concerns,” she said. “I know everything is going to be all right. We’ve been blessed this far. I know the blessings are not going to stop.”
Her son, Brandon, 11, will start fifth grade.
He said he’s excited about “having fun and learning” but a little nervous about meeting new teachers.