Since all Washington State schools were shut down in mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, schools across the state have made it a priority to continue to serve meals to students that rely on the breakfast and lunch they receive at school five days per week in order to have enough to eat. Some districts have been delivering meals on normal bus routes while others have dedicated pick up sites. The programs have been highly successful in continuing to feed students through this challenging time.
But what about the students that are outside of school boundaries or in transition and living in temporary housing where they may not be able to access these services? At a time when so many other things are uncertain, it was critical to ESD 112 and Southwest Washington school districts to find a way to continue serving meals to these students.
Normally, when school is in session, ESD 112 helps to transport students in need to and from school through the ESD 112 Specialized Transportation Cooperative. So why stop now? Through partnerships with Evergreen and Camas School Districts, ESD 112 has been using its fleet of school buses to deliver meals to these students since the school shutdown began more than a month ago. Meals are delivered along existing bus routes five days a week, and in many cases, an extra bag of food is provided to families on Fridays to help them get through the weekend.
“We knew that school closures would provide unique challenges to many families,” said Jenny Bullard, ESD 112 director of specialized transportation, “and we’re very pleased to be able to provide this service to our school districts.”
One Evergreen Public Schools (EPS) mother described that knowing the meals would be coming regularly for her daughter took away some of the stress of dealing with the Stay at Home order.
“I’m so grateful for what [the bus drivers] are doing,” said EPS parent Semira. “With everything that’s going on, having this one thing taken off our plate is really nice.”
ESD 112 bus drivers are driving their usual routes and dropping off meals for dozens of families who need them. For many students and families, the benefit of this delivery is twofold: not having to worry about what the kids are going to eat that day, and an opportunity to see and interact with people they know and trust, even while continuing to practice social distancing. Bus drivers who miss transporting their students to and from school each day are also grateful for the opportunity to check in with their kids.
“For our students and families, seeing someone familiar during such a strange time is a big deal,” said bus driver Janna Ray. “I love my job and it makes my heart happy to still get to see them every day.”
In addition to providing students in transition with meals, school districts and ESD 112 bus drivers have helped deliver critical technology and learning materials for distance learning. Since school closures began, ESD 112 bus drivers have delivered more than 100 meals every week day to families across the two districts.
To learn more about ESD 112 transportation services, visit https://www.esd112.org/specialtrans/.