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Donated school supplies help students impacted by summer flooding

Two women stand outside with a cart full of cardboard boxes
Joia Putnoi
Vermont Public
Laura Pratt and Tana Cosgrove wheel a trolley full of donated school supplies into Barre City Elementary & Middle School.

On a recent drizzly morning at Barre City Elementary & Middle School, middle school teachers Laura Pratt and Tana Cosgrove are unloading heavy cardboard boxes of school supplies.

“Let's see, so there are backpacks, lunchboxes, we had a bunch of water bottles, lots of crayons and colored pencils, lots of notebooks, binders, folders, pencils, eraser caps, the typical daily needs of really any age level,” Pratt says.

Pratt teaches seventh and eighth grade science in Essex, which is part of the state that wasn't affected by this summer’s floods. Previously, she spent just about a decade teaching in Barre.

We live in a small enough state where you see the pictures of devastation and people want to help.
Laura Pratt, middle school teacher

She says that when the city flooded, she and her Essex colleagues wanted to find a way to help. So she posted on Front Porch Forum and started organizing.

“We live in a small enough state where you see the pictures of devastation and people want to help. You know, they did things in the beginning to help with cleanup where they could, but this was like, I can go buy binders and paper and pencils. I know I had kids or I was a kid in school. And to know that that makes someone feel good coming into a new year,” Pratt says.

The state says 10 schools have reported major damage and 14 have reported minor damage after the floods. Barre’s school buildings themselves weren’t impacted, but some students were. A final count won’t be available until a little later in the semester.

But district officials say in the immediate aftermath of the flood, the principals from the elementary and middle school went door to door checking on families. Some lost their homes and all of their personal belongings.

Tana Cosgrove teaches seventh and eighth grade math in Barre. When Pratt reached out, she was enthusiastic to receive support.

“Yeah, and Laura reached out to me over the summer right after the flood and said ‘Hey, would you need anything?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ So, you know, thinking about wanting students to feel comfortable coming back and not in any way having any anxiety that I don't have my materials, because that does not feel good,” Cosgrove says.

Trunk of a car is full of cardboard boxes holding school supplies
Laura Pratt
Vermont Public
This summer, Laura Pratt has been collecting school supplies for students who were affected by the flooding in Barre, Johnson and Cambridge.

She says with so much up in the air for those still in recovery mode, having pencils or a backpack may not be top of mind, but it can make a big difference for students. Teachers and administrators are on the lookout for how they can help students during the transition back to school.

“So if we have students come in, and we notice they don't have a backpack, you know, discreetly and respectfully, have a conversation and they have this stash of awesome stuff, like at some point, why don't you just come grab one, and then continue to pay it forward, wherever the need is,” Cosgrove says.

Cosgrove says that especially now, it's important for her students to know that they can reach out to her. Throughout the summer, she has been texting with some of her students this summer about their housing situations.

And Cosgrove says that Barre is receiving a whole lot of community support this back to school season. Barre’s superintendent received a donation of supplies from the legislature — about 150 fully stocked backpacks put together by Burton.

“I think it's been an amazing groundswell of support. And I think it just lends itself to our community and how strong we are, and, and how those connections matter. Because it does take a village, like however big your village is, you know, it's— and I love the focus on the kids now, because it's been a hard summer,” Cosgrove says.

She says they may just be erasers, lunchboxes and notebooks — but they are cushioning the back-to-school transition for students who may need extra support this fall.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Joia Putnoi worked as a Newsroom Intern from 2022 - 2023.
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