Hundreds of area families took part in Spring ISD’s 2021 Back to School Expo on Saturday, held at the district’s Planet Ford Stadium and co-sponsored Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM). The event featured giveaways including free backpacks, school supplies and produce from area farms.
“All of us here in Spring ISD are looking forward to welcoming students back to campuses this August, both those who were with us in person and those who were learning remotely last year,” said Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson. “We’ve got some big plans for the upcoming school year, and it’s wonderful to see so many of our students and families getting excited about getting ready to start school again.”
NAM Chief Advancement Officer Brian Carr, who was at the stadium Saturday helping organize the food distribution, said the expo was a good way to help bridge the gap for many area families who may be struggling to make ends meet.
“A lot of families are hurting right now because of the pandemic,” said Carr, who explained that even with the long lines coming into the stadium, the expo was an efficient way for the district to help a large number of families at one time.
“We’re always excited to work with Spring ISD,” Carr said. “It’s a great partnership.”
The expo was scaled down from previous years, limited to a mostly drive-thru event to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and families. In addition to school supplies, backpacks and food giveaways, students had an opportunity to sign up for Chromebooks and internet hotspots for use during the upcoming school year. Representatives from Harris County Public Health were also on hand to offer COVID-19 vaccinations for individuals aged 12 and older.
Clarence Murphy, whose daughters Meagan and Madeline are both about to begin their junior year at Dekaney High School, came out with his family for the vaccinations, which were offered inside the stadium’s Randall Reed Center community room.
“I’d had the vaccine because I’m a flight attendant, but they hadn’t had it yet, and I was kind of nervous about it, especially with this new Delta variant that’s so easy to spread,” said Murphy, who lost his aunt and uncle to COVID-19 last year.
“They both passed away in December, and it really hit home,” Murphy said. “I just don’t want to chance it, you know? I want my family to be here as long as possible.”
District administrators and other staff members were at the stadium as well, greeting the cars in the drive-thru lanes and helping families navigate the event. Laurie Fitzmorris, a lead nurse with the district assisting those signing up for COVID-19 vaccinations, said that the turnout on Saturday was encouraging and would help ensure a safer start to the new school year for both students and their families.
“We’re just trying to encourage our families and provide them with opportunities to receive the vaccine, to help protect their children before we go back into the school year,” Fitzmorris said. “We have to work together, because it takes all of us.”
Most Worshipful H.B. Turner Grand Lodge of Texas and New Life Grand Chapter of Texas together donated more than 2,500 backpacks for students and brought more than 300 volunteers to the stadium to help during the event. Spring ISD Police Department Cpl. Andre Jones, who also serves as the lodge’s grand master, said charitable work and volunteering were part of the group’s ongoing mission.
“We’re just here to support the district and its efforts, just working in partnership with the police department and Dr. Watson and his cabinet,” Jones said. “It’s about reaching out and building community.”
Spring ISD Executive Director of Family Engagement Tranita Carroll again thanked sponsors, partnering organizations and all those who volunteered.
“As always, we’re grateful to our community partners, whose support helps make events like this possible for our Spring ISD families and students,” Carroll said. “We know that this work is worthwhile, and that it can be a real benefit to our community and our families, and we’re thankful for everyone whose support made it happen.”