Nearly 50 Richmond Public Schools are struggling to keep basic supplies stocked, such as toilet paper, paper towels, and soap, during the last two weeks of school, according to local parents.
Last Friday, World of Mirth posted to their Facebook page a call to action for anyone who wished to donate supplies to a long list of public schools across the state. The post was both in response to an online public sign-up sheet posted on Sign Up Genius by Cindy Anderson, as well as complaints from World of Mirth owner Thea Brown’s son.
My son is a 9th grader at [Thomas Jefferson High School] and he said he doesn’t use the bathroom because there is maybe one roll of toilet paper in a bathroom if you are lucky, and absolutely no soap,” Brown said. “When he got to high school, he thought maybe they just didn’t have hand soap in high school.
World of Mirth also started an Amazon wish list for anyone who wishes to ship supplies either to a school or to the store, from which they will make deliveries. Schools listed as options for donation on Sign Up Genius include Chimborazo Elementary School, Lucille Brown Middle School, and John Marshall High School, as well as 54 other public schools and public educational centers. Brown spent eight hours this morning delivering supplies to schools after dozens of volunteers donated supplies.
“I just got back from delivering to 10 different schools and I had a head custodian hug me with tears in his eyes because he had just gotten back from Wal-mart spending his own money to buy toilet paper for the kids [at Reid Elementary],” Brown said. “They were incredibly grateful. We walked into one school and they yelled, ‘Toilet paper! We’ve been waiting for you all morning!’”
According to Anderson, only five schools out of 54 on the list contacted her asking to be taken off the list, as they were well-stocked and did not want to take supplies away from other schools who may need it. Anderson is a member of the Parent-Teacher Association at Albert Hill High School, where her son attends the 8th grade.
“We don’t need folks to donate,” Jason Kamras, superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, said in a Tweet delivered on Saturday. “A couple of schools had issues on Friday. That’s unacceptable and I’ve made that abundantly clear to the RPS team. But I guarantee that every school will have supplies on Monday morning.”
Kamras then asked if anyone knew their school was out of supplies, they could message him directly on the issue. When contacted about the issue, Kamras’ media office replied that there was a delay in a supply order, but the issue has been resolved as of today. According to Anderson, 40 orders of toilet paper were backordered due to a lack of funding.
“As of right now, I have not heard anything about whether the schools have received anything from administration,” Anderson said. “What I do know is I just got a text from one of the people out delivering and every school has been very appreciative and said they were a ‘blessing in disguise.’ I just know that it’s not two schools, it was all but five [out of 54].”
Anderson began the donation list after seeing Facebook posts from local teachers on the Support Richmond Public Schools page who claimed their schools had no toilet paper, soap, and had to borrow paper towels from a neighboring school. The teacher also said children were using their pants to wipe their hands after using the restrooms.
“I cringe thinking about teenage girls in middle school and high school dealing with their periods every month,” Brown said. “We have to show to our kids and prove to them that we believe in them and that they are important, and that we are investing in their future.”
Parents continue to report complaints from their children that this is an ongoing issue, not an isolated instance. Betsy Milburn, mother of four, said her children complain every year about the lack of supplies, the disrepair of the bathrooms, as well as her daughter’s reluctance to use school bathrooms.
“I find it frustrating when the school system tweets out that it’s only a couple schools who need supplies, and then a parent calls every school and it’s only a couple of schools who don’t need supplies,” Milburn said. “I think that RPS can do better and should do better. When the basics work, then the big things can be tackled. We can’t tackle anything big until we can do the simple things.”
The School Board is set to discuss the budget Monday night, which will include money for toiletries.