This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Aaron Moselle for NewsWorks
The first day of school at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary began with a sizable dose of chaos as new students, new staff, and a very new principal converged at the school in East Germantown.
Directives crackled between teachers armed with walkie-talkies as parents trickled into the K-8 school in search of classroom assignments.
Others wandered the building’s perimeter to find out where their children needed to go.
"Teachers weren’t assigned to classrooms," said James Knipper, who teaches 7th-grade math.
As the first month of the school year comes to a close, though, staffers who spoke with NewsWorks say that, bit by bit, things are running more smoothly.
Knipper termed the difference since Day One "astronomical."
"It’s a 200 percent change," he said.
First-year principal Byron Ryan, who started just days before the beginning of the school year, attributes much of the progress to a complete willingness on the part of teachers and other employees to work together to fill in the school’s staffing gaps.
Roosevelt lost its assistant principal, two noontime aides, two support-services assistants, a social worker, and a counselor when the Philadelphia School District laid off nearly 4,000 employees in June.
As a result, teachers say they often take time away from their prep or lunch periods to help keep an eye on the hallways, which are now filled with more than twice as many students.
"We pretty much all chip in," said Ryan.