They call it a day of service and love.
Every public school in Broward County observed it Friday by doing community service projects to commemorate the three-year mark of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, a way to remember the 17 who died.
On the Douglas High campus, students and teachers engaged in a labor of love, an improvement project to spruce up a beloved area called Marjory’s Garden. It’s a place students go to grow plants, peace, and tranquility.
At Peters Elementary School in Plantation, kids were making “hug mugs” for first responders. Olsen Middle School students made gift baskets for health care professionals at Joe DiMaggio Childrens Hospital.
School district employees gathered together to make hundreds of care packages containing toiletries for homeless families. The district has more than 2,300 students designated as homeless.
“This day of service is incredibly important, we have so many families that have fallen on hard times,” said Carole Mitchell, who runs the Broward County Public Schools homeless assistance program.
“It’s a day that we’re commemorating the lives we lost, the positive things that those individuals have done to improve our lives and use that as an example to move forward,” said Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, speaking about the purpose and meaning of the day of service and love.
Runcie read the names of the Parkland victims at a news conference, and at 10:17 a.m., every school held a moment of silence and reflection.
“It is through love, tolerance, forgiveness, and service to others that we will combat the destructive forces of hate, anger and evil,” said Runcie.
One of the purposes of this day of community service is to teach kids empathy, kindness and responsibility, traits that will hopefully prevent student violence.
It’s also vital, Runcie said, to get as many kids as possible back into schools because far too many, he says, are struggling with remote learning. He supports the newly-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and says Broward has already been following near-identical protocols.
“So the CDC has seen Broward’s experience replicated throughout this country and the preponderance of evidence across the world shows that the best thing you do for our students is to open our schools,” Runcie said.
Florida’s Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, told the state’s school districts Friday that while the CDC guidance is “informative,” they need to stick with what they’ve already been doing, essentially saying the state will ignore the CDC report.