It was just after midnight when the phone rang. The winter storm had knocked out power, causing rolling blackouts across Waxahachie — and across Texas. A local nursing home lost power and didn’t have a backup generator, so city officials were looking for handicap-accessible buses to evacuate residents somewhere they could be warm and safe.
The city turned to an entity that often provides the community with support in the midst of crisis — their local public school.
The school district put its transportation director and some experienced bus drivers on the case. The group went to the barn where the school buses park, warmed up two buses, and moved all of the residents to a warm hospital.
“The city’s emergency department was so grateful,” school spokeswoman Jenny Bridges said. “They told us because our guys were willing to go out and help, they literally saved lives that night.”
“It was the right thing to do, so it was easy to say yes when we were asked to help. It’s a simple gesture of kindness and treating people with dignity,” said Philip Gurke, Transportation Director for Waxahachie ISD. ”God has blessed me with so much, and it was the least I could do.”
This story is just one of hundreds across the state showing how public schools respond in times of crisis to help their students, families, and communities.
From using buses to shuttle shivering residents out of dangerous situations, to opening schools as warming shelters, to setting up makeshift neighborhood food pantries, schools and PTAs rose to the challenge again in the face of a devastating winter storm that impacted the entire state.
And they did it while still dealing with the challenge of COVID and even while responding to storm challenges of their own.
As the snow and ice melted, schools across the state have had to contend with broken pipes and flooded buildings.
In Burnet ISD, a large high school auditorium was submerged up to the edge of the stage — the cushioned front row seats were left soaking in murky brown water.