Districts taking meals to students since schools are closed

By Stephanie Davey

The Herald

LAKEWOOD — Children wearing pajamas stood outside their homes, waiting for the bus to pull up with their breakfasts.

They filled their arms with milk cartons to bring back to their siblings. Adults were waiting nearby, some with bags to carry the food home.

It’s around 9 a.m. Wednesday, and usually they’d be in school.

But Gov. Jay Inslee ordered every school in the state to close last Tuesday, to protect people from the coronavirus. Every district must still provide children 18 and younger with breakfast and lunch each school day, at no cost to families.

The Lakewood School District handed out about 600 meals on the first day.

On Wednesday, the district served 1,224 kids. Thursday that number was 1,416, superintendent Scott Peacock said. That’s more than half of the district’s enrollment of 2,616 students.

The Lakewood School District covers 23 square miles in a spread-out area around Smokey Point and Lake Goodwin. That’s one reason it decided to deliver the meals.

“We are more rural, and kids can’t really walk to our schools” to eat, said Amie Verellen-Grubbs, assistant director of teaching and learning.

The district also wanted to make sure every family had a chance to get food, while keeping people from gathering in one place.

The Arlington and Marysville school districts had been handing out lunches at some schools, but on Monday began to deliver to other locations.

Back at Lakewood High School, dozens of adults loaded big tubs and coolers onto school buses. Three workers were assigned to each bus. On Wednesday, Susan John drove her usual route while Courtney Farr and Sarah Carper handed out food.

Without this job, they may have been out of work during the school closures. All are classified staff.

“We get to help these kids and families, and that makes us feel good,” John said. She and Farr both work at English Crossing Elementary School and have checked in on some of their students during the drive.

“It’s kind of a point of contact for us, because we miss them and are worried about them,” Farr said. “It was so immediate of a shut down, that one minute it was ‘See you tomorrow,’ and then there wasn’t a tomorrow.”

Carper works at Cougar Creek Elementary School. She hopes to get placed on a route where she can see the kids she works with. She knows some have a rough home life.

“I want to make sure they’re doing OK,” she said. It made the group feel better to see more kids than the day before. They handed out meals for 74 children — up from 50 on Tuesday.

“I feel so much less discouraged than yesterday,” Farr said.

“The word’s getting out,” Carper added.