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Lafayette High Takes On Displaced Students

Lafayette High's principal, Patrick Leonard, speaks to students and parents in the auditorium.
Claudio Sanchez, NPR
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Lafayette High's principal, Patrick Leonard, speaks to students and parents in the auditorium.
Brenda Thomas with her 17-year-old grandson, Kendal
Claudio Sanchez, NPR /
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Brenda Thomas with her 17-year-old grandson, Kendal
Patty Carbajal with her 18-year-old autistic son, Lionel
Claudio Sanchez, NPR /
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Patty Carbajal with her 18-year-old autistic son, Lionel

School begins today in Lafayette, La., for 30,000 students in the district and more than 4,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. For the hundreds of thousands of students and their families displaced by the storm, getting back to their studies is a huge step towards putting their lives back together.

Lafayette High School has a long list of academic, conduct and dress requirements. Principal Patrick Leonard thinks the restrictions send a message to students displaced by the hurricane that the school is doing the right thing, and treating everyone in the same way.

For many students and parents, the school represents a significant adjustment -- in size, in course offerings. But Leonard promises to do all he can to match students with their academic needs. Though many families want to believe the turmoil is temporary, schools in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes will remain closed for the rest of the school year, and Lafayette High is likely to be the point of graduation for many of these students.

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