Heritage show resiliency, caring to students during COVID-19 shutdown

MADISON – Teachers and principals in Madison’s elementary schools are demonstrating their compassion and concern for students during the shutdown of Madison City Schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Heritage Elementary School, Dr. Georgina Nelson serves as principal to 840 children. “All our worlds have been rocked and change seems to be our new norm. This is my 25th year as an educator, and I have never experienced anything like what we are currently experiencing,” she said.

The past several days have been a blur to Nelson. “Last night, I was finally able to take a knee and begin to process all that has happened. I’ve seen the social media accounts of hoarding food and toilet paper and people arguing about how we should respond to this situation and many other things that make you shake your head,” she said.

“However, … I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratefulness for the blessings I have witnessed,” Nelson said.

Nelson has seen her community unite in a powerful way that she could never have imagined:

* One late-night email from Nelson to Heritage families resulted in thousands of dollars’ worth of groceries, dropped off on campus the next day in two hours.
* That email also prompted parents to text and volunteer to package and deliver the food.
* Heritage Church reached out to help. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church doubled their regular donation of backpack food.
* Heritage elementary’s counselor organized food pickup for families. Several teachers volunteered for pickup times and delivered food to families without transportation.

Nelson appreciates her fellow administrators collaborating to secure a plan for the unprecedented midyear shutdown. “We all worked most of the weekend and into the wee hours … praying we had not missed something important,” she said. “They have listened to my sometimes crazy ideas, and we’ve all shared a million questions.”

“It has been amazing to watch our teachers working together tirelessly, sharing resources to provide learning opportunity via online platforms,” she said. Nelson learned to use Google Hangout to lead a faculty meeting online because they couldn’t congregate. The office staff, nurse and cafeteria staff helped parents “with beautiful smiles on their faces.”

On closing day, “we had many tears as our teachers left our school building realizing it might be a while before we see our students in person again. We didn’t all get to say proper good-byes,” Nelson said.

“I’ve seen post after post on Facebook about how much fun the students are having interacting remotely with their teachers and classmates. Our students love their teachers and they love school. It makes me smile … a big, proud principal smile!” Nelson said.

Across the district, technology technicians, teachers and administrators are volunteering to distribute 500-plus devices and wireless hubs for students to have needed resources at home. “Our interim superintendent, Eric Terrell, has been doing a phenomenal job,” Nelson said. “He is making certain all of our kids get fed this week with multiple drop-offs.”

“While sometimes the world seems negative and selfish, in my ‘world’ and community, I see good people who work hard, serve others and who are kind,” Nelson said. “I see people who want to bless others in big and small ways. I am so glad my girls get to see their examples and be a part of this wonderful community.”

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