Back to school is always a very busy time of year for school districts as teachers and staff are preparing their classrooms with supplies, decorations and other personal items. More often than not, these items come from a teacher’s wallet.
On May 20, a deadly EF 5 tornado destroyed Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools and damaged Highland East Junior High. Everything was lost, including those personal items teachers purchased for the classroom.
To help these schools, the American Red Cross contacted the district and offered to provide financial assistance to teachers, support staff and administrators to help replace personal items as a way to help fill in gaps with often overlooked needs.
“Many of these teachers can spend up to $1,000 a year on materials”, said Plaza Towers Principal Amy Simpson.
One of these teachers is Sam Canaday. She teaches pre-K and special education. She received a gift card from the Red Cross thanks to generous donors to help make her classroom be a place where students are comfortable and learning is cultivated.
“We’re in a new building so I want to make sure my classroom is comfortable,” she said. “I make a lot of materials for my classroom so I am very excited about the support.”
The Red Cross also made funds available to support staff. This includes teaching assistants, paraprofessionals and cafeteria staff. One of those is Aimee Bocock who works with Autistic students at Plaza Towers.
“I will use the money to help replace toys,” She said “When the students do well during the day, they earn stickers to cash-in for toys at the end of the day.”
Support for Moore Public Schools staff was offered to those who worked for Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary schools and Highland East Junior High School.
“It’s been overwhelming, in a good way,” said district superintendent Dr. Robert Romines. “The Red Cross is the first group to step up and not only help teachers but support staff as well”.
Dr. Romines is quick to point out this money may be going to the staff, but it’s the students who will benefit as all items purchased will help with their education.
These schools are not alone and the Red Cross is in contact with additional school districts to offer support to help fill this need as often times schools are the heartbeat of the community.
The Red Cross also provided all those receiving financial assistance a gift bag with water and a first aid kit for their classrooms and schools.
This program is an example of a long-term recovery project planned for areas impacted by the May 2013 storms. Plans are in place for individual and community resiliency, school preparedness and community rebuild. Projects could include support for building safe rooms, implementing storm-ready programs in schools and repairs to infrastructure in communities. One such project has already taken place in Steelman Estates, near Shawnee where the Red Cross paid to have their water well repaired. These projects will be decided by local community leaders, the Red Cross and partner agencies.