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Educator applies Katrina lessons in welcoming hurricane-displaced students

HOLLYWOOD | Judith Mucheck, head of school at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory, was administrating Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta during Hurricane Katrina’s tragic impact on New Orleans.

“We implemented abbreviated admissions protocols knowing full well that we couldn’t do all the stuff that is usually required during admissions,” Mucheck said of the period following 2005’s Katrina.

Under her leadership as superintendent, Atlanta’s Catholic schools accommodated a number of the displaced students following the devastating flooding in Louisiana.

“In Katrina, I think there was a month lag after the storm hit, and it took people a long while to get the transportation out,” Mucheck recalled. “They came primarily to the elementary schools and they stayed a couple of years.”

The Katrina experience came to mind this month as Chaminade-Madonna Preparatory moved quickly to accept two displaced students from the Caribbean following last month’s Hurricane Maria: one student originating from the U.S. Virgin Islands and another from Puerto Rico. Both had arrived here with family members.

Catholic and public schools as far away as New York are beginning to report that they are enrolling some of the students displaced by Hurricane Maria’s impact on the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico.

The Miami Archdiocese is reporting that some 50 students whose families fled the destruction have been placed in Catholic schools here.

Chaminade-Madonna’s two students, Mucheck said, were briefly screened, given tours of the private co-ed Marianist school and an expedited enrollment process with an understanding that they were welcome to stay as long as they needed while their families work through the recovery process.

One of the students has apparently already immersed herself, assisting in the volleyball team activities although she arrived too late to make this team this season.

“They are adjusting beautifully,” said Mucheck, who has been principal here since 2015. “Our community is very diverse and now these two students will find a place here as far as I am aware they are getting along great.

“The student from the Virgin Islands told one of her teachers that she wished she had found this school years ago,” she added. “I am sure it is a relief to their parents that they are kind of back to normal.”

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