Public schools are often tasked with being all things for all people. For most of us, we think of schools as centers for learning. But for some, especially those of us in smaller communities, they’re more than that. Schools are a place of refuge, where students can get a decent meal or stay warm.
This weekend, as historic storms ravaged communities from Arkansas to Kentucky, we saw exactly what schools mean to so many of our nation’s small towns and rural communities.
When you live in a small town, your neighborhood school is a community hub. While classes may be cancelled this week in areas impacted by the tornado, make no mistake: our schools are still open.
Behind the scenes, school staff and community members are coming together to ensure that all of our students and their families have the resources they need.
It should not take a natural disaster to bring people together. However, for those who have become weary of division and controversy at every corner, the scene on the ground is one of unity.
Local elementary schools look like Walmart Supercenters with stacks of bottled water and canned goods piled high. People with nothing in common but strong backs and willing hands are teaming up to clear off debris from driveways and yards.
These efforts, coordinated in no small part by our local schools, are a reminder of how great we can be when we unite for the common good.
The devastation of these storms will ultimately lead to much larger conversations, like the flexibility of school systems to assess and address needs in the face of community-wide crises. But for now, we should find solace in this fact: when the storms came, our schools were there.
Garris Stroud is an award-winning educator and writer from Greenville, Kentucky whose advocacy and scholarship have been recognized by USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Education Post, The Louisville Courier-Journal, and The Lexington Herald-Leader. He served as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow from 2017-2019 and became chair of the organization’s editorial board in 2018. Stroud is currently a doctoral student in educational leadership at the University of the Cumberlands, located in the heart of Kentucky’s Appalachian region. Contact him via email at [email protected].