The school I work in is open for students for 40 hours. Just 40 hours. What happens in the building when it's not school? Thats 128 hours a week where we have this huge building with computers, a nurses office, gym space, art and music studios, and about 50 classrooms that are just sitting empty.
Our community was hit by a horrible tornado. It doesn't take a very strong tornado to devastate a densely populated urban area. School was canceled on Monday. Many of our staff members were at the building calling families or walking the neighborhood despite being told to go home. We care about our community and our families.
Yesterday cemented in mind that a school building needs to be a community hub.
Problem: Lack of shelter.
Solution: Open the school and invite the whole community in. They might not be able to stay the night but there could be buses from schools to formal shelters. During the day they would be safe, dry and somewhat comforted.
Problem: Lack of electricity.
Solution: Our school had power and a generator just in case. Community members could come in and charge cell phones, watch the news, or get information from the internet.
Problem: No food.
Solution: Our food from Monday is going to waste. I know there are strict federal rules on school food, however, I'll gladly have someone smack my hand later if I can get food into the hands of people who don't have it today.
Solution: Have your educators run activities. Open up the gym. Do some crafts. Educators are pretty resourceful people and can improvise things to do fairly quickly.
Solution: Open up the computer labs. Have government officials or community resources in the building to help communicate options and action plans.
All of these are just in a crisis or tragedy.
Imagine what you could do if schools were community hubs. Imagine if families and community members could come in and take an art class in the evening. Imagine if there was structured gym time. Imagine if a classroom was used for a writing lab. Imagine if aerobics was done in the multipurpose room. Imagine if there was a theatre class on stage. Imagine if there was a doctor or nurse in the nurse's office in the evening. Imagine if there was dinner served. Imagine all the things the community would get!
Imagine if all 168 hours of the week were utilized by a school building.
Image Credit: Leo Reynolds, http://flic.kr/p/6yZd6G
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