NOTE: Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press conference Thursday that public schools in North Carolina will likely be closed beyond March 30, the ending date of the closure he stated in his order Saturday canceling classes.
Local officials say that with Wilkes County schools closed by order of Gov. Roy Cooper due to the coronavirus outbreak, many students are at risk of not being well fed.
Starting Tuesday, the second day of the unscheduled break from classes, teachers switched roles with students by riding school buses to deliver meals, enrichment activities and books for students at homes and collective distribution sites across Wilkes.
In return, the teachers received smiles, hugs and positivity from the grateful students, a reassuring harbor from the tempest of uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.
At Moravian Falls Elementary School, teachers prepared student packets on Tuesday morning. Each packet contained an enrichment activity, a reading book for grades K-2 and a chapter book called “Appleblossom the Possum” for all K-2 students.
The packets and dozens of prepared lunches were taken to Country Square Mobile Home Park off N.C. 16-18, where many Moravian Falls students live. Other students’ packets were mailed Monday.
The school was set to kick off its sixth year of the “One Book, One School” reading event this week, but it could have been cancelled with the closing of schools statewide.
Paula Farmer, Moravian Falls librarian, explained that school staff wanted to see the program through despite the closing. “With a few last-minute adaptations, we are continuing full steam ahead, and using our book event to pull us together and build excitement and camaraderie throughout the days ahead,” she said.
Students received a copy of the book by Holly Goldberg Sloan and a reading schedule so that they, their families and teachers can read together nightly. Farmer added that school staff will use Class Dojo to upload recordings of teachers reading the book so that students and their families can follow along if needed.
Farmer said the books were funded with a $1,000 grant from the N.C. Community Foundation, a private donation of $400 and $400 from the school’s parent-teacher organization.
At C.C. Wright
Dr. Kimberlee Stone, principal at C.C. Wright Elementary School, said the school handed out or delivered almost 200 free meals on Tuesday. On Wednesday, over 200 meals were served to students, with the bus having to return to the school mid-afternoon to load up again after running out of meals.
The school will also distribute food bags from Samaritan Kitchen of Wilkes on Friday. Stone said the school is blessed to have the Hunter’s House food pantry as an additional resource.
“Everything here has been received very positively,” said Stone. “You might think people would grumble about having to come by and get this, but they don’t. And my teachers and other staff have worked tirelessly on it. It’s an ‘all-in’ effort.”
Stone emphasized, “Our job is to serve families, and we try to do that every day. We’re happy to serve our families and their children.”
School personnel prepared about 350 individualized student packets for distribution Wednesday. Some of the packets were picked up that morning while others were delivered to student homes because, as Stone noted, “we still have some people who have challenges getting here. Our goal is to have every one of these in students’ hands today (Wednesday).”
Every student packet has individualized work, based on the student’s level of proficiency. Generic art and music activities were included, as were physical education activities. Every packet also included paper, pencils, vocabulary templates, reading and math pathways and the chapter book “Savvy” for grades 2-5.
“I want to emphasize that nothing is busywork” in the packet, said Stone. “Everything is based on a student’s mastery of their grade-level standards.”
Not only did the Wilkes teachers bring food, books and enrichment activities to the students, they delivered another critical supply in these unprecedented times: hope.
Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said earlier that the two weeks with classes canceled will be used primarily for “enrichment and enhancement,” without new content from teachers. He said parents should get information from teachers and individual schools on what students could work on then to leave them better prepared when school reopens.
“Teachers are also planning for remote learning in case the school closure is extended beyond two weeks. Questions about student instruction should be addressed to individual schools,” said Byrd.
All Wilkes schools except Wilkes Early College High School are distributing breakfast and lunch meals for children ages 1 to 18, regardless of economic status. Details will be available at each site and are included on the school district website under “Daily Announcements” at: https://www.wilkescountyschools.org/apps/news/article/1187692.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction announced it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools and community organizations to provide food to students impacted by school closures. Cooper said waivers were requested that would assist in feeding children whose daycare has closed.
A spokesman for the Wilkes Partnership for Children said none of the nine private day cares in Wilkes County, with 441 children, had been closed. Head Start classes, serving 73 children ages 3-5 in Wilkes, are closed. Pre-K programs in Wilkes, with 364 kids ages 4 and 5, also are closed.