The community of McAlester is doing something about the school budget crisis, and it's challenging other towns to do the same.
Like many school districts, McAlester Public Schools is faced with deep cuts. Superintendent Randy Hughes said he's preparing for $200 less per student - a $1.1 million cut to the budget.
“We have to make a lot of cuts, and when you're looking at a classroom, you want to provide the students with the very best education that you can. If it comes down to hiring a teacher in a classroom or cutting back on paper, we're gonna have to cut back on paper,” he said.
Hughes planned to hold a "pancakes for paper" drive for the district; but that’s when Auld Family Dentistry stepped in, using social media to challenge other businesses in town to help get the district 500 cases of paper.
“Our schools need it. The budget cuts have just hit them hard and they all need it. Big ones, little ones, all schools need it,” said Lisa Gragg with Auld Family Dentistry. “I want this to go big. I want this to go over the state of Oklahoma.”
The movement has taken off since Gragg came up with the paper challenge idea last week.
Facebook is flooded with videos of folks accepting the challenge and calling out others to do the same.
Gragg said, “Right now, in the way things are in this world, we need to rally around and we need something good to happen, and so we just gotta make it happen.”
Already, five other communities have started a paper challenge for their districts, which is exactly what Gragg was hoping would happen.
“I really would like to see every school in Oklahoma benefit from this,” she said.
Briggs Printing, the local print shop, is offering to sell cases of paper at cost - which means they're not making any money out of it, but what they're getting is something money can't buy.
“We're getting to be able to help the school,” Teresa Briggs said. “Make sure the kids have what they need because they're our future. And if they don't have it [what they need], then we don't have a future.”
People are rolling out buy reams of paper - Briggs has sold well over 200 cases, proving McAlester is as resilient as its mascot.
“The school is the community, and the community is the school. And to see our community members just to step out and to help us, that is the truly spirit of the buffalo,” Hughes said.
Auld Family Dentistry is donating $1,000 worth of paper. Briggs printing is offering to donate one case of paper for every 10 cases sold.
They're also delivering cases to the school with certificates showing who donated.