October 30th brought thunderstorms, sideways rain, tornado warnings and flash floods all over Austin. AISD schools had to draw on their reserves of resilience and positivity to manage the repercussions of hazardous weather conditions: power outages, hours of sheltering-in-place protocol, flash flooding. Local news and social media were filled with stories of teachers and school staff keeping students safe. In some areas, school property and the personal belongings of staff and students were lost or damaged. Unfortunately, Palm Elementary in southeast Austin was hit hardest: 23 classrooms in an entire wing of the school were flooded. Palm was closed on Monday, November 2nd on account of clean-up efforts, and so that Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and 1st Grade teachers could prepare to hold their classes somewhere else for the next month.
“Somewhere else” turned out to be the Allan Center, a former elementary school and multipurpose AISD facility. Palm students and teachers met at their home school on Tuesday morning to ride buses over to Allan, where they were greeted by Principal Coleman and the administrative and counseling teams. Even though the displacement situation was tough, the attitude from teachers and administrators was cheerful and upbeat! From high-fives at Allan’s entrance to maintaining daily closing circles before heading back to Palm for dismissal, everyone involved drew upon their own resilience, positivity, and sense of connectedness to forge ahead with learning.
Of course, all this resilience can make you hungry! Luckily, helping out schools in need is second nature to the Austin community. Three local businesses—THREE!—donated lunch to the displaced Palm teachers and staff. Gourmand’s donated delicious sandwiches and their house-made pickles and chips. Gino’s East gave several decadent deep-dish Chicago-style pizzas. And East Side Pies provided a stunning array of their large specialty thin-crust pizzas! The wide variety and deliciousness of the food donated without hesitation by these local eateries lifted the spirits of the school community—there was even enough food left over to bring back to Palm at the end of the day!
This is a story about the strength, grit and positivity of Palm elementary students and staff in the face of disaster, and the outpouring of generosity from the community at large. This is an illustration of how compassion and community can concretely make the world a little bit better than it was the week before. We are #SELGrateful for Gino’s East, Gourmands, and East Side Pies, and #AISDProud of Palm Elementary.