School-Related Professionals Recognition Day is Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. It's a day to honor the work of the people who support students, teachers and the care of school buildings. This year's theme is "SRPs Care for their Community." Our union is our family. NYSUT encourages all our local unions to celebrate SRPs on SRP Recognition Day. LEARN MORE.
Sara Flint couldn’t help but laugh as she reflected upon the 20 years she’s spent as a bus driver for the Brushton-Moira Central School District.
“I’ve been around so long,” said the Brushton-Moira Support Staff Association member, “that I have kids riding my bus now whose parents rode my bus when they were in school.”
In the small Franklin County town of Brushton — where everyone seems to know one another by name and according to the last official count the population tallied 439 — consistency and familiarity has always been the norm. But these days, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, life has changed dramatically in Brushton and School-Related Professionals such as Flint have stepped up to the front lines to meet the needs of students, the district and the community during these uncertain times.
“Everything is different now,” said Flint. “The community has always been there for us, and now we’re there for the community. We’re all in this together.”
After opening for the school year in September with about 75 percent of its 800 students returning to class, Brushton-Moira and every other district in Franklin County were suddenly advised on Nov. 9 to shift to remote learning after COVID-19 infection numbers in the county spiked dramatically since the start of the month. The order, which will stay in effect to Jan. 4, was handed down by Franklin County Public Health officials, who characterized the situation as “an epidemic within a pandemic.”
“This will increase our workload by about 10 times what we normally do,” said Cheryl Rockhill, the Brushton-Moira Support Staff Association president. “We’ll manage. We have a great team here. But this isn’t only about Brushton-Moira. SRPs everywhere in every district throughout the state have been going above and beyond to take care of students and their communities during this pandemic. It’s what we do and who we are.”
During last year’s statewide shutdown of schools, food-service and transportation SRPs in Brushton prepared and delivered meals to 436 students daily via four bus runs. Within hours after the county’s Nov. 9 announcement, Rockhill said there were already requests from more than 200 families of students for meal delivery, adding she was expecting that number to increase to 500 by the end of the week.
“SRPs everywhere in every district throughout the state have been going above and beyond to take care of students and their communities during this pandemic. It’s what we do and who we are.” Cheryl Rockhill, the Brushton-Moira Support Staff Association president. Photo by Becky Miller.
But Rockhill said that even before the latest shutdown order, members of her local were rising far beyond expectations.
One of her drivers, for instance — because of a change in BOCES-student pickup rules due to the pandemic — was covering more than 200 miles per day on the road when the average is around 50. Support staff performed health-screening on students before they entered buses and schools. Teaching assistants assisted with student instruction not only in the classroom, but also aided students in online learning for those attending school remotely. Food-service workers prepared meals for those students in school as well as readied lunches for delivery to those students learning from home. Maintenance staff worked added shifts to ensure schools were disinfected.
And Flint, meanwhile, even spent her own free time sewing masks for people in the district and throughout the community.
“It’s something I enjoy,” said Flint, who estimated she has made roughly 500 masks so far.
As districts in Franklin County shift back to remote learning full-time now, Rockhill said, transportation SRPs will be especially vital to student instruction as they will be used to deliver resources from teachers to students.
Rockhill said what’s been especially remarkable is how SRPs in Brushton and across the state have risen to the occasion to meet the needs of students and their communities despite the lack of appropriate state education funding.
“My motto this year has been, ‘We’re doing the very best we can with what we don’t have,’” Rockhill said. “You know, they call SRPs the backbone of school districts. I think over this past year, we more than proved that’s true.”