The Haves and the Have Nots

I am assigned to four schools, but two are on opposite ends of the spectrum from each other.

One of my elementary schools is located in an incredibly idyllic neighborhood. It’s like the neighborhood in The Truman Show. The campus, unlike all the other ones in the district, is wide open. The school borders a city park, and there is no fence separating the children from the school and the park, and there is a gate that runs from the creek to the park. That’s right – kids could access a stream of running water fairly easily if they want to. Well, they would be able to be near water if it were not a dry creek bed right now…We’re in California, no such thing around here. On the drought note, the neighborhood surrounding the school is full of bright green manicured lawns, a rarity around the city and state right now. The parking lot is teeny tiny, and it’s not a problem because so many parents walk or bring their kids to school in a wagon. Parents answer the phone on the first ring, and arrive within minutes whenever the need might arise. Parent and grandparent volunteers can be found all over campus and the school hosts fundraiser nights for parents to contribute further to their child’s education. When I sent out care plans, I was able to email most, and the only ones not returned were no longer enrolled in the school. In short: parents are wealthy and involved.

Just a short drive away is my Title 1 school. Families hail from all over the world here, some of them brand new to the country after escaping the war zone that their native country had become. The language line is frequently used here, because the Spanish interpreters cover only the Spanish speakers. I received a single care plan back from a mother; I probably had the wrong address for the rest as the population in the area is so transient. Here, I am tracking down parents, asking them how I can help their child get glasses, where at the other school, the glasses are on the student before I even knew there was an issue. My office is near the kindergarten pickup area, so when morning kindergarten is nearing the end of their day, I watch the parents gather in front of my window. It feels like I am watching a little snippet of the world’s people: so many shapes, sizes, and heritages, all in one place. Neighborhood yards are brown, bordered with chain link fences, and people walk the streets with shopping carts filled with their belongings.

It is mind-boggling to me that such different lives are being led in such close proximity.