Local schools close to avoid covid-19 spread
March 19, 2020
Like all other public schools in the state of Washington, Wahkiakum School District and Naselle/Grays River Valley School District have suspended classes until April 24 due to concerns about covid-19.
All spring sports and other extracurricular activities are suspended as well.
“It’s a pause in lifestyle,” WSD Superintendent Brent Freeman said, “we’re trying to break a transmission cycle to protect the community,” noting “because of the older, vulnerable people in the community, we are going to lean cautiously.”
While classes are suspended, school is not closed. All staff, bus drivers, custodians, classified, teachers, coaches, were in on Monday and Tuesday for meetings to talk about what the coming weeks will mean for them.
“We’re making lemonade right now,” Freeman said. “We’ll tackle projects we didn’t think were achievable or lower on the list. A lot of people want to do more instead of less. There is some frustration they can’t do more.”
Over the weekend, Freeman said, everyone on staff came up with some kind of professional development to focus on during this time.
The school will continue to provide meals for any child up to the age of 19 who needs it, which Freeman described as not only a mandate, but a moral obligation. Kids don’t have to participate in the free and reduced program to receive meals at this time.
“Krista Fritzie and her food service team have been absolutely excellent in providing a really good quality meal choice for folks,” Freeman said.
Parents should contact the school at 360-795-3261 between 8-9 a.m. to request the meal, and pick up between the hours of 10 - 11:30 a.m.
The district is also working in partnership with a local food bank to expand meals. They are able to deliver meals on a limited basis, to those who are unable to pick up and are on regular bus routes.
“It’s like building a plane while flying it,” Freeman said.
There will be no community or student access to school facilities at this time, with the exception of a funeral that had already been scheduled. However, Freeman has offered the space for emergency management, if it becomes necessary.
The J.A. Wendt school office will be open from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“I feel good about what we’re doing,” Freeman said.
In Naselle, students were in school on Monday, but there wasn’t the usual celebration that precedes spring break or summer vacation. The mood was somber.
“We’re just trying to weather the storm,” N/GRVSD Superintendent Lisa Nelson said. “We’re figuring out how we can best serve the students, to educate and provide some of their basic needs, a lot of which are met by the school.”
While Wahkiakum students will not be required to do any coursework at this time, because the district cannot provide access to teachers or curriculum equitably, Naselle students came in on Monday to pick up books, work sheets, and more, as teachers grappled with how to continue education in separation.
They plan to figure it out as they go along.
On Friday, N/GRVSD announced that they would be providing meals to students who qualified for free and reduced meals. That changed this week, and now they will be providing breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday for anyone who needs them, up to the age of 18.
“A lot of people are chipping in to help with that,” Nelson said. “We put out a request and had 29 responses in 10 minutes. But we’re trying to be wise about social distancing, so we’ll set up some kind of rotation.”
“This is an unprecedented time,” Nelson noted. “We have no baseline, we don’t know how many parents will respond when we start on Wednesday.”
Meals must be ordered by 9 a.m. the day of delivery, and can be done by calling either 360-484-7121 or 360-777-7127. Food delivery will begin at 11 a.m. Families should pick up meals from the bus stop that most closely aligns with their bus route. There will be a delivery at the Bay Center Boat Launch at 11:20 a.m., the Rosburg Store at 11:13 a.m., the Assembly of God Church at 11:05 a.m., and the Chinook Coffee Shop at 11:20 a.m.
Along with meals, there may be an exchange of school work, completed items coming in, new stuff going out.
Nelson wanted to encourage everyone to be patient at this time with all the changes and uncertainties. She’s very much thinking about the people who are struggling with fears about loss of employment or how they are suddenly going to deal with full time child care.
“We’ll weather this together,” Nelson said, “and hang on.”
Graduation dates will not be affected at either school, but Naselle students will have some make up days in June.
Meanwhile, at St. James Family Center in Cathlamet, child care and preschool/ECEAP are still in operation. Parents who are affected by the school closure and will need childcare are encouraged to contact SJFC as soon as possible to complete the necessary paperwork and documentation. Space is limited. Drop in services may not be available at this time, so parents have been asked to contact the office about scheduling.
Play group has been canceled through April.
Check the SJFC Facebook page for updates.