Students in Joplin, Tulsa pool pennies for school lost in fire
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
12/05/12 at 9:20 AM
Pennies from children's piggy banks added up to two great surprises for Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, which is still recovering from a fire that destroyed its school site exactly three months ago.
For the second week in a row, the charter high school has received the proceeds of elementary school penny drives it didn't know were taking place. This week, it was $299 from a high-poverty elementary school in Joplin, Mo., that lost its own school in a May 2011 tornado, and before that came $2,400 from Tulsa's University School.
"I was very surprised and very touched by it," said Arts and Sciences Director Eric Doss. "A lot of people have reached out to us and supported us. What's different about this is it's kids."
The school has been a charter school partner of Tulsa Public Schools since it opened in 2001. After a TPS consolidation shuttered more than a dozen school buildings across the city, Arts and Sciences relocated from its expensive leased office space to the former Barnard Elementary School, 2324 E. 17th St., to save money.
Just weeks into the school's first academic year in its new location, Barnard was destroyed in an early morning Sept. 5 blaze that fire investigators determined was caused by construction work.
What was lost wasn't just the historic school building but most of the contents, including the instructional materials that teachers spent years accumulating.
When Susan Knapps, a teacher at Joplin's Irving Elementary School, heard about the Barnard fire on a TV news broadcast, she knew exactly what Arts and Sciences' teachers were going through.
"We lost everything we had in our classrooms. Over the years, you've invested a lot of time and money in those items. Those are the tools that you use every day and you are constantly thinking of something you need, starting to look for it and realizing it's not there," Knapps said.
When she told Irving's principal about this school fire in Tulsa, she agreed they should help.
"We had so many people from Tulsa that helped at our school when the tornado hit. They would just show up at our door and there were so many people from Tulsa that just really hugged us across the miles. We are just very blessed to be able to have an opportunity to give back," Knapps said. "I wish it was more that we could give them."
In two weeks, this school that is still in temporary quarters and has only 275 students from a high-poverty area of Joplin pooled piggy bank and pocket change. School officials surprised Doss by emailing him a photo of Irving's student council members holding up a check.
"These are kids empathizing with other students. Those kids really do understand what it's like to lose your entire school," he said.
Cyndie Yocham's seventh- and eighth-graders at Tulsa's University School track current events as part of their studies and sympathized with the Arts and Sciences school community.
"The kids were just devastated. We used to be in old apartment buildings on campus and it took us years to get this building," Yocham said. "We talked about what it would be like for the children to go home one day and everything they had from their possessions at school was gone the next day."
Her students organized a school-wide fund drive, hanging posters and sending notices home to parents. In just a week and a half, they had learned a lot about the joy of serving others.
"They were so surprised when they started seeing the amount of money coming in, even from the 3-year-olds. Those Mason jars would come in so full - some was coming out of piggy banks and some was coming from parents. One parent even wrote a $1,400 check," Yocham said. "The kids were gung ho to do it."
Doss said the funds will go into his school's foundation to help with recovery costs.
"We would like to find one purpose - something concrete, if possible - because I think it's really important for these young kids to see exactly what their money was used for," he said.
Original Print Headline: Students pool pennies for burned Tulsa school
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
For the second week in a row, Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences has received the proceeds of elementary school penny drives it didn't know were taking place. This week, it was $299 from a high-poverty elementary school in Joplin, Mo., that lost its own school in a May 2011 tornado.