This week my school district announced that four more schools will be closed at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. This devastating news prompted me to write the following letter that will be combined with those from other school staff, families, and students to ask our state and national leaders to SAVE OUR SCHOOLS:
This is my twentieth year as a school nurse serving the students, families, and staff of the Camden City School District (New Jersey). My first twelve years were spent at Cooper’s Poynt, where we were bursting at the seams with more than 900 students. Molina and Powell schools were part of our North Camden neighborhood as was Pyne Poynt. They have all been closed, with Cooper’s Poynt designated as the only public school left in North Camden. It is slated to become a middle school in the upcoming school year. This means there will be no more public elementary schools in this neighborhood. The pattern of closing neighborhood public schools has been repeated across the city over and over again.
The pandemic has inflicted pain and suffering across the country, but it has impacted communities of color at greater proportions. We know that Camden has been hit exceptionally hard by COVID. Our school district has successfully transitioned to online learning because it is not safe to implement a hybrid option yet. Calling for the closure of four beloved, treasured, and successful schools in the midst of a pandemic seems especially traumatizing to our already impacted students, families, and school staff.
The relationships forged in schools like Yorkship, Cramer, Wiggins, and Sharp are priceless and have long-term impacts on our students. Students and staff are not pieces on a game board to be moved about to fit a political agenda. We are people who have developed a sense of connectedness to our school communities. We have had enough disruptions from COVID to weather, please do not add to our trauma and grieving this lost year of life by unnecessarily disconnecting those threads left that have sustained us.
I leave you with this story, one from a student, now an adult who I cared for at Cooper’s Poynt 15 years ago. He reached out to me a decade and a half later to tell me this story:
“Yesterday my son was sent home from school with a project to do on their superhero, so I thought I should tell you that you are mine. I never told you but in the 4th grade, your kind words and warm hugs saved me, one morning you allowed me to sit down in your office because you seen I wasn’t having a good day. The night before that was a very bad day for me. The day we talked was the same day I planned to commit suicide, but thanks to your loving and warm felt words and hugs I’m able to be here for my sons and move forward with life. Thank You SOOO Much ??
I kept this story in for a lonnnnngg time, I just wanted you to know that you matter!”
Never doubt that those moments of care, the ones where we have to dig really deep to take care of one more student, may just be the moment that makes all the difference. My student, with the biggest smile, was hiding a very sad and complicated childhood. He hid it well, but he trusted me with his pain. Imagine this young student not having that literal lifeline with a school staff that particular day. Please help us save our school communities. We can repair physical structures, broken tiles, and missing flooring if that is truly the issue. Our children, however, require connectedness to flourish, which can’t be forced, it takes time and continuity.
Here is a link to the petition that will be sent to Governor Phil Murphy, please consider signing and sharing: