Hurricane Harvey

WATCH: Storm-Shuttered Houston Schools Start Classes

The Houston Independent School District had to implement rolling start dates for schools in the aftermath of Harvey.

North Forest High School’s football team and cheerleaders welcome students back to school at Hilliard Elementary.

It’s been almost a month since 10-year-old Marcus Alexander was supposed to start fifth grade at Hilliard Elementary in Northeast Houston.

As Marcus put it, he’s been “waiting for the big day, coming up.”

Now that big day is here: Monday marks the final back-to-school day for the Houston Independent School District, which it had to implement rolling start dates for schools in the aftermath of Harvey. The flood caused damaged – from minor to major – in most of the district’s facilities.

Weeks later, most of the district’s 280-plus schools have already started, but the final seven welcome students this week, including Hilliard Elementary.


Marcus said the he’s most looking forward to “helping out my teacher, Ms. Watkins.”

His teacher, Courtney Watkins, might be more nervous than her students.

“I’m excited but I’m also kind of — I guess it’d be scared, because I don’t know what to expect,” Watkins said. “I mean, they’ve been through so much in the last month.”

Their school suffered some of the worst damage from Harvey in the district. Inside, floodwaters reached as high as four feet.


Even with the delayed start, Watkins said that she has big goals for the new year.

“Getting back into the groove of things, I’m just excited to see my scholars and excited to move forward with improving our  campus,” she added.

Hilliard Elementary is one of 10 Houston schools that must meet state standards this year, or the entire district could face tough sanctions.




Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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