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Community pulling together keeps Franklin Strong
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Community pulling together keeps Franklin Strong

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What would you do if there were a crisis in your community?

Our community recently showed what it would do. It dug deep into its pockets, its basements, its bookshelves and created a new school.

I am the nurse of Franklin Elementary School in Moline. Our building recently had a fire that caused sufficient damage to render it unusable for an undetermined amount of time.

What do you do with 270 students who are displaced?

It took the Moline School District less than a week to figure out what to do with them.

It found and opened a new school!

Churches, the Rock Island Arsenal and Western Illinois University offered alternative places in which school could take place. The offers were generous, but it takes more than an available space to open a new school; there are countless regulations that must be met before a building is deemed appropriate to be used for schoolchildren.

Many people had sleepless nights to make the plans turn into reality. Every thought a person had about what needed to happen would reveal multiple more needs attached to the original thought. Listening to the planning committee report to the staff made me envision detangling Christmas lights -- everything was entwined with everything else. Yet, one week later, students were starting school in a new Franklin.

Teachers throughout the county offered resources to our teachers. Maintenance and custodial staff located and lugged desks, chairs, boxes and boxes and boxes. The ed tech department found computers for us to use wherever we could connect to the district to re-create and print what we would need to start anew. Teachers and nurses in other Moline buildings gave of their supplies to replace ours.

The community was creative in its efforts to support us. Elementary students held a bake sale.

A high school student created a GoFundMe page that exceeded his expectations within hours. A girls’  volleyball team collected supplies at a game; even the opposing team contributed. Alleman High School raised money by having a “no uniform” day. Gift cards with supportive notes attached were given.

Spectators at the MHS Homecoming parade filled a truck and trailer with supplies and containers full of money. Individuals and businesses provided food for staff during emotionally charged meetings. Even though I repeatedly heard the teachers say, “It’s just stuff” while talking about what they had lost in their classrooms, I couldn’t help but think about how much of themselves was in that “stuff.” Years of materials they created and counted on for their lessons were gone.

At one of our meetings a gentleman from WIU remarked it seems appropriate for elementary students to be taught in a WIU building because Western began in the 1800s as a school to train elementary school teachers, and it feels as though the circle has been made complete.

Western was instrumental in getting Franklin into its former building even though it was in the process of being sold.

“It’s not often in life an opportunity to help others so perfectly presents itself” is how the new owner felt about the timing of our need.

I am impressed with the professionalism, the resilience, the relentlessness, the fortitude and the compassion exhibited by Moline’s district administrators, Franklin’s principal, staff and the staff of the entire district. Many hands made this new school happen.

At the beginning of what I have come to think of as “fire week,” we clutched each other and proclaimed that we were “Franklin Strong.”

By the time the students entered our new doors, we knew we needed to add more to our sentiment.

We are Franklin Strong. Moline Strong. Community Strong.

Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

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