Irving ISD welcomes students displaced by Hurricane Harvey

Irving Independent School district is helping displaced Houston families and students who are living in Irving. For many of these students, their schools were damaged or permanently closed due to Hurricane Harvey. Approximately 47 students from the Houston area have enrolled and are attending Irving ISD schools. Three students who attended Irving ISD temporarily returned home.

As more South Texas families arrive in Dallas, the number of students expected to enroll will increase over the following week.

Upon arriving in Irving, each student is immediately enrolled into one of the Irving ISD schools. The students qualify for the federal Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance program and receive items including school supplies, backpacks and school uniforms In addition, the students are assigned to the free breakfast and lunch program.

Evacuee families are given the chance to work with an Irving ISD counselor to gain information about resources they might need.

“About half of the students are living with family members,” said Adam Grinage, Deputy Superintendent of academic services. “We expect them to be here a little longer. The other half of the students are in the evacuee centers. They are still transitioning to determine if they will return to their homes. Those kids probably won’t stay here too long.

“Fortunately we were prepared. We met the week before the hurricane happened in an anticipation of getting kids. We had backpacks ready along with school supplies and school uniforms. We made sure every student had these essential materials.”

The Irving Schools Foundation (ISF) reached out to Irving ISD to offer free school supplies. The ISF runs a free ‘store’ set where teachers can get supplies for their students.

“We made sure our students had a buddy with a similar schedule so they weren’t just coming in and didn’t know where they were going,” said Anika Horgan, principal of de Zavala Middle School. “They were typically nervous, but the welcome and just having everything they needed made the transition seamless.”  

Irving ISD has a coordinator who directs the responsive services for the families. These services involve providing access to food outside of the normal school hours and other resources within the community. As of now, the families’ needs are being met. The only concern the school district has is ensuring the students feel safe, comfortable, and wanted.

“We open our doors to any student, any day, for any situation,” Grinage said. “We recognized there was a great need to open our doors for kids no matter where they come from or who they are. When they come in our doors, we don’t think if they’re are going to be here for just a week or a month. Once they are with us, they are ours until they leave. 

“We treat them like they are anybody else, in fact, we probably pay more attention to them just to make sure there are not emotional needs or physical needs that we need to pay attention to.” 

Before the hurricane hit Houston, Irving ISD received 14 students.

Austin Middle School accepted two evacuee families.

“We have taken up a collection of goods like food, diapers, formula, and items of clothing as well,” said Karen Smith, the campus secretary at Austin Middle School. “We donated through the Irving Police Department to give to Irving Cares and we are still collecting money.”

Schools located in Aransas County were so heavily damaged they are closed indefinitely.

“One of the moms’ of a student we have accepted from the hurricane said, ‘No more Houston, I’m tired of fighting,’ after her apartment was destroyed,” Smith said. “We will open our arms for them and try to make them feel as welcome as we can. It’s so important for them to continue their education and try to get normality. We just take them in and treat them like they are one of us. Once they enroll and become a Bronco, they are always a Bronco.”

To make the students feel welcome and secure, their arrival as displaced is not broadcast to the other students. The school is focusing on treating the students as normally as possible.

“We have to do it this way because it doesn’t matter where they come from, they are here and this is home. This is where they feel loved and supported,” Smith said. “I am overwhelmed by all of the aid we have come across.”

“The teachers were told to collect things and bring them to the station at the school, and the officers would collect them and take them to Irving Cares,” said Officer Greg Spivey at Austin Middle School. “Money is actually a better way to donate than items because of all the logistics of getting them down there. If you earmark something for hurricane Harvey relief, then all of that money will only be spent for hurricane Harvey.”

“As a facility, we went ahead and decided to announce a fundraiser to our staff and our students,” said Sean Flynn, principal of Lively Elementary. “If they paid five dollars, they would be able to wear jeans for the day and all of the proceeds would go towards the Red Cross to help with the hurricane relief.

“So far we haven’t received any new students, but we are prepared and ready to go. We have a home for them and classrooms. We are excited to have new students and provide them with all the assistance we can.”

During their fundraiser, Lively Elementary raised $2,541.10.

“Irving ISD believes that all students are welcome,” Anika Horgan said. “The response was so immediate that not only did I as a principal ask ‘what could we do’ but other faculty, staff, and students were asking ‘What do we need to do and how can we help out?’ Irving was quick to reach out and prepare the schools because new students were coming. It’s just the whole community aspects of saying, ‘How can we make sure we are providing everything the families need?’ It really shows how, not only the Irving community can come together but also how can Irving ISD come together.”