ATLANTA–Georgia State University researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study how schools can recover and return to operations faster following natural disasters.
Dr. Betty Lai, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health, and Dr. Ann-Margaret Esnard, professor of public management and policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, will use the $293,000 grant to examine how 400 Texas public schools recovered after Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The researchers will analyze factors that may hinder or support schools’ recovery, particularly in areas exposed to floods and storms.
Using advanced statistical modeling and mapping, they will determine cluster patterns of school recovery status. They hope to provide a robust body of evidence to help school officials, educators and local policy makers plan for and respond to future disasters.
Given the central role schools play not just in academics, but also in providing communities with access to shelter, food, and medical and psychological resources, it’s crucial to understand what can hinder or support recovery, Lai said.
“Despite the important role that schools play,” she said, “very little research has been conducted to understand how and why disaster-affected schools differ in the post-disaster recovery patterns.”
“It is increasingly clear that post-disaster recovery will continue to grow in complexity given multiple, overlapping and interrelated factors such as the intensity of extreme weather events, urban development patterns and population growth in vulnerable areas,” Esnard said. “Schools and recovery of children and families are critical to the positive recovery trajectories of affected and displaced households and communities.”
Georgia State Featured Researchers
Professor of Public Management and Policy
Esnard’s research expertise includes urban planning, post-disaster recovery, vulnerability assessment and geographic information systems. Her previous research has focused on population displacement from catastrophic disasters, long-term recovery and the role of those displaced by disasters.
Dr. Betty Lai
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Lai has focused her public health research on how children and families respond to disasters and other trauma. Her recent work has analyzed children’s mental and physical health symptoms, as well as their functioning in schools, following large-scale disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Ike along the Gulf Coast.