Letters of hope and encouragement from Cleburne ISD students and teachers are beginning to arrive at the schools of Ingleside, which was among the Gulf Coast communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
In the aftermath of Harvey, CISD chose to focus its support on Ingleside ISD, located northeast of Corpus Christi. High winds, flooding and the loss of infrastructure delayed the start of school and two campuses sustained damage, as did many of the homes of Ingleside students and staff.
The District’s decision in going “side by side with Ingleside,” immediately followed the City of Cleburne’s announced partnership with the city of Ingleside. Cleburne civic groups and churches have also reached out and established bonds with parallel groups there.
Ingleside students reported for their first day of school late last week, kicking Cleburne’s letter-writing initiative into high gear. The messages will be well-received, according to Gerard Elementary teacher Tracy Humphreys, whose second grade classroom sustained major damage in the 2013 tornado that struck west Cleburne.
“I know the Ingleside teachers are thinking about their kids first,” she said. “I am so glad the schools are now open. School will give them a sense of unity and belonging and will help bring closure to the devastation they have seen and suffered.”
“It’s like opening a new chapter in going back to school,” Humphreys said. “Life is going on. For those students whose homes were damaged, or who lost everything and are now displaced, the classroom will look the same day after day, when their home may not. It will provide some normalcy. For a great part of their day, they will have that sense of order, which will help as their life away from school is put back together.”
Adams Elementary Assistant Principal Brandi Geltmeier can also relate to what the students and families of Ingleside are experiencing. Geltmeier’s home sustained severe damage in the Cleburne tornado. She also dealt with the sadness and fear of many CISD students, including her own children, resulting from that storm.
“As educators, we felt their need to feel safe,” she said. “In the days that followed, many were frightened by every high wind, with even the slightest possibility of a storm. We provided lots of comfort and assurance, and I think the letters our students are writing will do the same.”
“Just like we did in Cleburne, I know the Ingleside staff and parents are working together to make their kids feel safe at school,” Geltmeier said. “I know what it feels to be on the receiving end of that. We had parents help us when our home was hit by the tornado. We had no clothes, no car—and our community helped us, helped my kids.”
“We can relate to Ingleside,” she said. “And we can let them know there is life after Harvey. I want them to know we’ve been where they are—and we hope to help them feel some relief. Just a note or letter, knowing people are praying for you matters so much. It makes my heart happy knowing these letters are being sent. Ingleside will see how many here care for them.”
If a letter from one Santa Fe Elementary fourth grader is any indication, the messages from Cleburne students will do just that.
I know it’s been hard for you to lose your home and things that you love. But things are going to be ok. Don’t worry, things are going to be fixed in no time. I hope you are ok. Remember me as one of your new friends.
P.S. I’m sorry for all the damage to your city.
Dollar drives are also underway on CISD campuses, or have just finished. Money raised will assist Ingleside ISD schools and classroom needs, along with the needs of students and their families. The District plans to continue and develop additional plans for aid and support as the year progresses, reflecting Superintendent Dr. Kyle Heath’s remarks that “Cleburne ISD is with Ingleside for the long haul.”
Santa Fe Elementary fourth grade teacher Melinda Adams pens a note to a teacher at Ingleside Primary School while Haley Sanchez writes to a student. Letters to the students and staff of Ingleside ISD campuses are among the “side by side with Ingleside” initiatives underway in Cleburne ISD to help the families and schools in the community impacted by Hurricane Harvey.