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Gulf Coast school benefits from Tahoe donations

William Ferchland

Somewhere in the four or five pages of donors to Pineville Elementary, a Mississippi school damaged by Hurricane Katrina, is Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

The kindergarten to sixth-grade school, located about an hour east of New Orleans in Pass Christian, Miss., survived the deluge from Mother Nature and has been the beneficiary of generosity.

“We never dreamed (Hurricane Katrina) was going to be that bad,” said Pineville teacher Beth Moran. “We never did. We just appreciate so much that people have done for us because it has been amazing to see.”

A few months ago, Lake Tahoe Unified School District adopted Pineville Elementary as a way to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Board member Sue Novasel visited the elementary school earlier this month while on a trip to drop her daughter off at Tulane University.

Books sat on the floor, which was usually void of carpet. State funding has shrunk with the tax base, she said. Playground equipment was swept away by the storms.

“It was really sad and it really put in perspective how lucky we are that at least we have the ability to make improvements,” Novasel said.

Pineville Elementary is still in need of donations, especially gift cards from places such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, Moran said.

“We have a lot of supplies: paper, pencils that sort of thing,” Moran said. “What we don’t have is shelving, filing cabinets, trash cans ….”

Her own trash can was a 5-gallon bucket.

Students have remained resilient at Pineville Elementary but are mobile. They leave when families move out of the area; they return when families come back to their houses.

The migration causes enrollment to fluctuate. The school had 280 or so students before Hurricane Katrina, Moran said. Now it has between 160 to 170 pupils.

“We do have quite a bit of turnover,” Moran said. “It’s kind of a revolving door at this point.”

Books, bags, money and other supplies were collected by Lake Tahoe Unified School District and sent to Pineville Elementary. Novasel said an account still exists at Bank of the West under her name, but associated with the Mississippi school, for people to make donations.


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