Students and staff in five Ocean County school districts had some basic classroom materials as they returned to school today after more than a week’s closure following Hurricane Sandy. None are returning in the near future to their home schools and have been relocated to spaces in area high schools, churches, and other sites where room has been made for them.
About 50 NJEA members from Ocean County—including displaced staff from Boyd Elementary School in Seaside Heights—as well as NJEA staff from around the state, filled new backpacks with supplies for each returning student. The effort took place on Sunday at the NJEA UniServ office in Toms River and was the result of close collaboration between the Ocean County Council of Education Associations Executive Committee, the Region 7 UniServ office, and local associations in Ocean County.
Each displaced teacher received a large plastic tub of supplies, notes of encouragement, and gift cards to assist them as they face the challenging task of teaching young students in unfamiliar settings. A generous supply of donations came from the Pequannock Township Education Association and The Education Association of Morris (TEAM).
Seaside Heights Education Association President Kathleen Ruprecht described Central Regional Education Association President Susan Hopson as her “new best friend.” The two have been in close contact ever since it was announced that Seaside Heights would move to Central Regional. The social studies wing in Central Regional High School in Bayville has been cleared for the elementary school's students.
In all, the volunteers filled 200 backpacks, 40 teacher boxes, and created small classroom libraries for each of the five schools. Boyd Elementary teachers divided up hundreds of donated books for shared libraries in each of the displaced schools.
Staff in each of the displaced schools are unsure which students will show up for school today. The teachers—many of whom have lost or sustained serious damage to their own homes—have spent the last week trying to locate their students and families.
If your school is in need of assistance, or if you or your local association would like to learn how you can help, contact the NJEA Back to School effort at BackToSchoolFund@njea.org. Make sure to contact your local association president in addition to writing to the above email address. More information and donation opportunities can be found at njea.org/backtoschoolfund.