Three months ago, a deadly EF 5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, destroying Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools and damaging Highland East Junior High. Everything was lost, including items teachers purchased for the classroom.
The American Red Cross has been helping residents of Moore get back on their feet for the last several months. With teachers and students returning to school, the Red Cross contacted the district and offered to provide financial assistance to teachers, support staff and administrators to help replace the classroom items lost during the tornado.
“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 get her classroom ready for the new school year.
“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. All those receiving financial assistance also received a Red Cross gift bag with water and a first aid kit for their classrooms and schools.
The Red Cross is in contact with additional school districts to offer support to help fill this need and help the schools, often the heartbeat of the community.
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 rebuilding the community. 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 the community’s water well repaired. These projects will be decided by local community leaders, the Red Cross and partner agencies.