In the wake of historic flooding across the Houston area this week, the HISD community has rallied to help in a number of ways, including assisting with the bus evacuations of residents in the Greenspoint area and setting up two school-based shelters on a moment’s notice.
The Houston Independent School District responded to the city’s request to open up Johnston and M.C. Williams middle schools as emergency shelters to assist residents affected by storms and the resulting flooding throughout the city.
HISD Nutrition Services provided water, food, and non-perishable items at both campuses, and HISD Police were on site to help. Additionally, HISD responded to the mayor’s request to provide water and food to North Houston residents at the city’s disaster center in Greenspoint.
Brian Busby, HISD’s Officer of Facilities Services, said when the city called on Monday to request the middle schools as emergency shelters, his team was ready to make it happen.
“We have such a valuable partnership with the city that it was our pleasure to be of service and to give back as part of the social responsibility we have to help the communities we serve,” Busby said. “We as HISD were available to help in the best manner that we could to ensure our citizens had access to the help they needed.”
Busby said that effort couldn’t have been possible without HISD personnel such as Efrain García, who is the plant operator at M.C. Williams Middle School. Garcia has been with the district for 27 years, and he said this was the first time he had to prepare a school to serve as a shelter.
Garcia immediately arrived at the campus to ready the school for receiving donations and those displaced by the flooding.
“I felt very proud to be part of this, to see people come together to help others in a time of need. Seeing them come and give what they had to help others is such a great feeling,” Garcia said. “I felt happy and proud to have had a small part on all of this and also feel proud that our school was selected to serve in a time of need.”
The district’s transportation department responded to the call on Monday to help evacuate residents in the Greenspoint area, providing six buses and drivers to transport them to Greenspoint Mall’s Emergency Command station and the E.O. Campbell Educational Center in Aldine ISD. The team also helped unload supplies such as water and clothes from vehicles in the donation line.
“We were just glad that we were able to help out in an emergency situation,” said HISD Transportation General Manager Nathan Graf.
Bus driver Cloria Whitherspoon was one of the drivers on duty, and she currently is the designated driver for five students who are staying at Campbell to transport them to and from school. Whitherspoon said it was rewarding to see her co-workers pull together to help the community.
“I was helping one lady and her kids on the bus and she overheard one of the other drivers on the radio who mentioned that we were a team. The lady was so impressed. She said, ‘Oh that’s so nice! They’re a team helping us!’” Whitherspoon said.
“It’s all about bringing the love back. That’s my motto: Bring the love back,” she said.
Other schools across HISD also are joining the effort to help residents affected by flooding. Some efforts underway include:
- Booker T. Washington High School (119 E. 39th St.)
Staff members at the school are donating funds that will be used to purchase gift cards for those affected by the flooding. The student body and athletics department is in the process of organizing a food and toiletries drive.
- Pin Oak Middle School (4601 Glenmont, Bellaire)
The school is collecting gently used school uniforms and shoes at the school’s library. If possible, please freshly wash the uniforms before dropping off, as it will help with quickly getting the items to students who need them. The school may need volunteers to assist with organizing clothing donations. If you are available, please sign up at: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/30E0D4FAAA623A6F85-pinoak2
- Kolter Elementary School (9710 Runnymeade)
Items are being collected for surrounding Meyerland neighborhood residents who might need help with packing supplies in the wake of flooding. The school is collecting an assortment of moving boxes, plastic bins, tape, bubble wrap, gloves, and cleaning supplies. Donations can be dropped off from 8 to 10 a.m. through Friday at the school’s front office.
- Oak Forest Elementary School (1401 West 43rd)
On Wednesday, the school’s OFE Peer Assistance Leadership Students (PALS), a group of 30 fifth-graders, worked for two hours at Manna Food Pantry, a local food pantry that services 13 ZIP codes in the surrounding Houston area. The students helped unload grocery bags, sort groceries and stock the food pantry so that it is ready for those in need.
- J.R. Reynolds Elementary School (9601 Rosehaven)
Students participated in a flood drive, bringing in items that corresponded with their grade level. They plan to distribute to families in need.
Do you know of other schools that are helping organize flood relief efforts? Please send information and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet us @HoustonISD with hashtag #WeAreHISD