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Student displaced by Harvey enrolls at McCallum

Sophie Ryland

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ABOUT THE SLIDE SHOW: These images show freshman Kai Kidd’s family home in Port Aransas before Hurricane Harvey hit the coastal town and also the condition of the home after he returned there with this mother and grandmother to inspect the damage that Harvey had done. Photos courtesy of Kai Kidd.

The last full week in August started like any other in Port Aransas.

There was a little rain predicted for the week, nothing unusual for a coastal town. As locals began to monitor the weather more and more anxiously, however, the predictions of a couple of inches of rain turned into a tropical storm, then a Category 1 hurricane, and later a Category 4.

Within a week the town would be in wreckage and unlivable for the residents, including freshman Kai Kidd and his family.

By the time Harvey had been downgraded to a Category 2 storm on Friday after battering the Texas coast, Kidd’s family had already decided to leave the coastal town. Kidd’s mother pulled him out of Port Aransas High School in the middle of the day and, along with his grandmother, fled to Austin. His family anticipated danger but didn’t know the extent with which the storm would slam their town, preventing his return to his home and his school.

“Right now, the whole town is unlivable,” Kidd said. “There’s a bunch of trash on the street, and most of the houses are flooded, and some are completely gone or demolished. There are boats everywhere.”

Locals leave an uplifting message to remind all those who were affected to stay strong. Photo by Kennedy Schuelke.

Kidd and his family were among 2,000 evacuees from Harvey who escaped to Austin. Kidd himself is one of many students displaced from their hometown schools, prompting Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz and Mayor Steve Adler to announce that they would accept school-age evacuees into AISD schools.

They have since welcomed around 100 such students. In addition to expediting the enrollment process for them, AISD has provided other resources to the families, including counseling and parent support specialists to help them adjust to the unexpected change of environment through Project HELP.

AISD similarly opened enrollment in 2005 for students who evacuated Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, where about 700 evacuees were temporarily in attendance at nine schools within the district.

In addition to receiving the students and setting up a shelter at LBJ High School, the district has also hosted Red Cross volunteers and created the Austin Education Harvey Relief Fund to provide school supplies, clothing and financial support to the affected students.

After a mandatory evacuation order was issued to Port Aransas, Kidd was joined by others from his community. According to Kidd, everyone was tense knowing the strength of the hurricane, which had forced all the schools in the Port Aransas Independent School District to completely shut down until an anticipated reopening on Oct. 16.

“When I first got there, I stayed for around five days at the Hyatt hotel and hung out with a couple of my other friends who came here,” Kidd said. “We just hung out and hoped nothing terrible had happened; we were glued to the TV for a few days.”

Kidd, unlike many other evacuees who were forced to stay at LBJ or the City of Austin’s shelter in a leased building, had ties to Austin and was therefore able to stay with his grandparents. Additionally, as his family was already anticipating moving away from Port Aransas, it was less of a jarring transition than it was for many others.

“I have a lot of family here, and I actually lived here a year ago, so this was already our go-to place,” Kidd said. “[I’ll stay] at least for the semester, maybe longer. We were already planning on moving somewhere else, but the hurricane just kind of threw a wrench in our plans.”

Though most of the high-school-aged students were enrolled in LBJ High School, which is operating a shelter for Harvey evacuees, Kidd chose to attend McCallum, as he already knew two students here and wanted to ease the transition.

Though his departure from his old school was abrupt, he hasn’t struggled with the adjustment; instead, Kidd says that he’s enjoyed his new experience at McCallum.

“I like it here a lot,” Kidd said. “It’s definitely a change, because it’s a lot better than my old school. One grade is probably bigger than my whole school in Port Aransas, so I’ve had to adjust to that. But I like it a lot. The teachers are really good, and there’s a lot more opportunities for classes and sports.”

All throughout losing his old house and way of life in Port Aransas, Kidd says that he’s done his best to approach the situation with a positive attitude, adapting to instead of struggling with his transition to life in Austin and McCallum.

“I think I’ve been taking it pretty well,” he said. “I’ve kind of accepted it; it’s just how it is, you know.”

For more of the Shield’s coverage of Hurricane Harvey:

For many at Mac, Harvey hits close to home

Acevedo discusses impact of natural disaster on Texas

McCallum hosts Red Cross volunteers in wake of Harvey

Red Cross volunteer tells his story about Harvey

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Student displaced by Harvey enrolls at McCallum