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Over 1 million students are facing displacement

WASHINGTON — Nearly 1.35 million Texas students could be displaced by Hurricane Rita, state officials said Friday, as the nation braced for what could be a second disastrous storm along the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Katrina displaced 372,000 students in Louisiana and Mississippi after coming ashore Aug. 29.

At least 1.1 million students in grades kindergarten through 12 attend schools in the Texas Gulf region, which includes Galveston, Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and surrounding school districts, said DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

About 250,000 students attend tax-supported colleges and universities in the region and about 20,000 others attend private institutions, said Ray Grasshoff, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The number of students displaced will obviously depend on where Rita strikes, how much damage it inflicts and how powerful the storm will remain after coming ashore, Culbertson said in a telephone interview from the state capital in Austin.

"It's going to depend on what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours," she said.

Houston took in 45,000 students displaced by Katrina — more than any other state, Culbertson said.