Hoopeston Area and Rossville-Alvin school district staff members and residents rallied last week to support their local schools and students in the face of a statewide shutdown of school as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus.
District residents turned out to donate food items to ensure that students would be able to have lunches throughout the week, while district staff members and administrators worked together to distribute and deliver their lunches as well as develop educational plans to keep students engaged and learning during this shutdown.
Hoopeston Area set up various lunch pick-up sites for families to pick-up bagged lunches throughout the week in Hoopeston, Wellington, East Lynn and Rankin.
Rossville-Alvin conducted a food collection drive and staff members delivered lunches items to district students early in the week.
Several Hoopeston Area School District administrators were present at 112 Coffee and Wine Shoppe in downtown Hoopeston March 17 to distribute lunches and educational packets. The Chronicle spoke with several of them and asked how families can keep their students and engaged and learning during this shutdown.
John Greer Principal Dan Walder said his staff came together to put together educational packets for each grade level to keep students engaged and learning during the shutdown.
Walder said he had a meeting with administrators and leaders of the Hoopeston Education Association March 15 to discuss the situation. After the meeting, he returned to John Greer and, after a just a few phone calls, there were a dozen people had come in to help put the packets together.
“My staff was phenomenal,” he said. “They had already come in on Saturday and Sunday to start getting their packets together. We had representation from every grade level and, by Sunday evening, we had everything ready and laid out.”
Walder said his staff came in on March 16 to help out any students who came in to pick up items.
The packets include many online resources and programs that help with subjects such as reading and math. Walder said John Greer’s physical education teacher even included some suggestions for keeping active during the shutdown in the packet.
Asked what he suggests district families do to keep students engaged during the shutdown, Walder said that students need to continue read and brush up on their math facts.
“The core thing for us is that they’re reviewing their math facts and they keep reading,” Walder said. “Otherwise we’re going to get a lot of ‘summer slide’ in the spring.”
Hoopeston Area Middle School Principal Michelle White said each of the schools has sent out messages to parents with packets with activities to do during the shutdown to keep students engaged.
White said there are also a host of homeschooling websites that are making the rounds on social media that district parents can utilized to keep their students engaged and learning while they are at home.
Hoopeston Area High School Principal John Klaber said the Regional Office of Education has also sent out different resources for families to use.
White and Klaber expressed their appreciation to district teachers for rallying together to get educational packets ready to go for their students.
“The district staff is absolutely amazing,” he said. “In a very short amount of time, we said what we needed and it was done. I think everybody’s really rallied around and all the teachers did a great job, on very short notice, getting things lined up,” he said. “There’s ample opportunities, both online and on paper, for kids to do some things to keep their minds active.”
For the high school, Klaber said teachers put items into the packets that were specific to their class.
Klaber gave the example of the vet science class suggesting students do journals based on their pets and their behaviors.
“It’s all tailored to those specific classes,” he said.
The administrators also expressed their appreciation to Emily Brown, district curriculum coordinator and owner of 112 Coffee and Wine Shoppe.
Klaber said Brown coordinated a food a collection drive and volunteered her business as one of the location for lunch distribution last week.
“She’s sacrificing her time, her business, to do this,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
White said the community has really stepped up to help with the lunch program by providing donations.
“The donations from the community have just been pouring into Emily the lunch program that she put together,” she said.
Klaber said the community has rallied around the school district to help students and teachers during this trying time.
“Everybody’s coming together,” he said.
Also present during the distribution were representatives from the Feed My Lambs program, which is presented through the United Methodist Church and provides food for students in need over the weekend during the school year.
Connie Huffman said the program had packed the bags on March 15 in anticipation of sending them home with students at the schools on March 16, but those plans changed when Hoopeston Area canceled classes for that day.
Huffman said they decided to make themselves available when students were picking up their lunches starting March 17 at one of the locations around the area.
“So that we can hopefully get them distributed throughout the week,” she said.
They doubled the amount of food in the bags they distributed to ensure that students had enough food to last them through the week and the scheduled spring break.
Rossville-Alvin staff members also distributed Chromebooks to students who hadn’t already taken them home. Hoopeston Area set up times to allow students and families to pick up their Chromebooks during last week and this week.
Both districts are developing plans to enact e-learning for students as the school shutdown continues and continue offering lunch programs for students during the shutdown.