As local residents begin to grapple with daily lives drastically altered by efforts to stem the spread of the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus that causes COVID-19, leaders at the Camas School District are trying to ensure that some things, including daily meals for students, don’t change too much.
One week after Governor Jay Inslee ordered all public and private K-12 Washington schools to close for six weeks, Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell reported the district had been able to serve 1,400 meals in four days and thanked the district’s “incredible troops on the ground” including bus drivers, food services staff and others who have helped make sure Camas students who rely on meals they eat at school are still being nourished.
Camas School District bus driver Mark Enloe is one of those “incredible troops” Snell mentioned in an update letter posted to the district’s website on Friday, March 20.
Enloe, a Washougal resident, has been driving school buses for Camas for 10 years. Until last week, his weekday morning routine was pretty much the same: pick up kids along the Lake Road, Prune Hill route and deliver them to school.
Some of that routine hasn’t changed. Enloe still heads to the district’s bus depot each morning and he’s still driving his normal route. Now, however, instead of students hopping on the bus, Enloe is delivering free meals at each of his designated pick-up sites to students and families who need them.
“The first couple days, we didn’t have a lot,” Enloe told the Post-Record on Friday.
He dropped off two meals the first day, two the second day and four on the third day. People are just getting used to the new system, perhaps, Enloe said, and some are wondering about paying for the meals.
“I had one mother ask me, ‘How much do I pay for this?’ and I said, ‘You’ve already paid through your taxes,’” Enloe said.
Indeed, the meals are free and available to Camas School District families through the bus-delivery service and at pick-up spots throughout the district.
The district is offering free breakfast and lunch grab-and-go meals for all children, even if they are not yet in school, said the district’s communications director, Doreen McKercher.
Families can find the meals at their regular morning elementary school bus drops; at buses parked at Dorothy Fox, Prune Hill, Grass Valley and Woodburn elementary schools from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. (to serve families with students who walk to school and do not have a bus pick-up spot); and at pick-up stations at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools from 9 to 11 a.m.
McKercher said more than 1,000 children in the Camas School District receive subsidized nutrition services.
“Now more than ever, we want to make sure that the neediest among them don’t go hungry over the weekend during this school closure,” McKercher said.
Supplies, however, are running low. The district’s Family Community Resource Center, which helps low- and no-income families access non-perishable food, household and hygiene items, clothing, school supplies and other basic needs — as well as the Backpack Program, which makes sure at-risk students can eat over the weekend or when school is on break — are both in need of food and other supplies, McKercher said.
“Currently, the biggest need is for food,” she stated in a post to the district’s online COVID-19 resource page at camas.wednet.edu/about-csd/news/covid-19/
Families who can donate are asked to drop items at the Zellerbach Administration Center, 841 N.E. 22nd St., Camas between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.; at the Inter-faith Treasure House (tell them items are for the Camas Backpack Program) at 91 “C” St., Washougal, or donate online at ifth-cw.org (Treasure House) or http://bit.ly/2U1U78K (Family Community Resource Center).
Enloe said the food preparers and helpers on his bus routes have been practicing recommended social-distancing methods.
“They’ve got their acts together. They’re standing about eight feet apart and wearing gloves. We’re being careful,” Enloe said.
Although Enloe is 65, he said he is in good health and not worried about getting ill during his daily bus-driving work.
“Some of the drivers were uncomfortable doing it, a couple of them are in their 70s, so it’s understandable. We didn’t have to do this,” Enloe said. “I volunteered because I wanted to help. I get tired of staying at home, and this gets me out of the house for a couple hours in the morning.”
School district closer to virtual learning opportunities
In his most recent update, Snell said Camas educators are getting closer to offering online “enrichment learning opportunities” for students, with a launch date of April 6.
“Our learning goal (this week) remains focused on assessing students’ ability to access resources and to continue learning that was happening prior to school closures when appropriate,” Snell stated in his online update to Camas families.
The superintendent also said he expects to know more this week about what the state might require for seniors set to graduate in June and about providing instruction to high school students.
District launches ‘Stories from Camas’ site to help families interact
In an effort to help shift focus from the doom-and-gloom of the virus pandemic, Snell established a link called “Stories from Camas” (http://bit.ly/39XdAx2) last week to help families and students see some of the positive things other Camasonians are doing during the six-week school closure.
The site offers some ideas for students, such as keeping a journal of what their life is like during the closure and interviewing a family member by asking questions such as, “How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?”
Snell kicked things off with a video of him reading Suzanne Lang’s book, “The Grumpy Monkey” to his son, Micah.
“Stories can create opportunities for us to come together,” Snell wrote on the site. “They allow us to share experiences, discover common ground, be curious and interested in learning more about each other. We are in the midst of a very unusual time where we won’t get to interact with each other in the typical ways. Perhaps coming together around stories can help us all.”