School meals are on wheels once again.
A proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee in late August now allows school districts to use bus drivers and other transportation to deliver food, learning materials and technology to students, as the state and districts continue to grapple with health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sequim School District looks to begin offering meal distribution this week, school superintendent Rob Clark said, with transportation and other staff bringing food to area youths twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Similar to what the district offered in mid-March through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, when the COVID-19 health issue struck, the meals — both breakfasts and lunches — will be collated at the district’s central kitchen and then delivered to locations in the Sequim area, available to any youths of ages 2-18.
On Mondays, each youth would be eligible to get four total meals (two breakfasts and two lunches) and six meals on Wednesdays (three breakfasts, three lunches), Clark said.
“It’s the same as it was in the summer and last spring,” he said.
The difference this school year, Clark said, is that “we want people to sign up for these meals,” rather than having staff drive to predesignated locations.
Clark detailed the district’s meal plan to school board directors at their Sept. 8 meeting.
Clark said Inslee and state schools superintendent Chris Reykdal threw school districts a two proverbial “curveballs” recently, allowing districts to use school vehicles to transport meals as well as extending the summer food program through Dec. 31.
The Sequim superintendent said staff had developed plans to serve meals out of the central kitchen prior to Inslee’s Aug. 26 proclamation.
“Both of those were good news (but) it did catch us a bit flat-footed,” Clark said. “(We) wish we could have had that news in the middle of August instead of at the end.”
School board director Larry Jeffryes pointed out that parents should fill out free and reduced meal applications (available at sequimschools.org, under the “Programs” menu), which helps the district receive federal funding.
Clark said the district does have the capability of, but has not yet, used school vehicles to help deliver learning materials such as textbooks or computers.
School opening on horizon?
As of last week, Clallam County’s COVID-19 numbers had shifted from “high risk” (higher than 75 cases per 100,000 of population) to “moderate” (25-75 per 100,000) in recent days. Clark said that is positive news for the possibility of re-opening schools to some students soon.
”If we minded our Ps and Qs over this last (Labor Day) weekend we could be starting school (in person) in October,” he said last week.
“It’s a conversation that’s going to be ongoing,” he said. “I’m just hoping the numbers stay down.”
Sequim, along with other school districts across Clallam County, opened the 2020-2021 school year virtually, with all but about a dozens students learning remotely.
Clallam County will need a drop in coronavirus cases to a rate below 75 per 100,000 and keep below that benchmark for four consecutive weeks (28 days) before bringing any students back to school campuses, Clark said in an Aug. 17 meeting. School district leaders who do not follow health official guidelines, he said at that meeting, could put their schools in “a place of great liability.”
Clark notified Sequim School Board directors last week that Sequim Police officer Kindryn Leiter, the district’s School Resource Officer (SRO), was recently promoted to sergeant and that a replacement has not yet been hired.
While the district does not have an urgent need for an SRO with so few students on campus, Clark said he’d like to see the partnership continue.
“It is my belief (that) we’ve always had a good relationship with our SRO … and there’s no reason to change,” he said last week.
SROs are school-based law enforcement officers who work with parents, school administrators, teachers and school security staff to protect students, faculty and school facilities.
A new SRO may not be on campus until around the beginning of 2021, Clark said.
“By that time I hope we have students on campus,” he said.
The school district and City of Sequim/Sequim Police Department split costs association with the SRO position.
Enrollment down, 3 new staffers
School District administrators had budgeted for overall enrollment to be around 2,630 students, while first day number showed the district is about 50 to 60 students short of what was budgeted, Clark said on Sept. 8.
“We’re down but not as much as anticipated,” he said. “We’ve lost some students to homeschooling.”
Many of those students are in the younger age range (kindergarten-fourth grade), he said —situations where parents felt if their child’s learning was going to be virtual that they could make the shift to a homeschool set-up.
In response to board director Eric Pickens’ question about finding a way to serve those families, Clark said administrators would look at a way to “recapture” some of those former district students.
“I expected a hundred (students short of budget); it’s a good news bad news situation,” Clark said.
“I still feel relatively good about our numbers.”
With a number of retirements, resignations and a few reduction-in-force notices, Sequim schools added just three new employees to start the 2020-2021 school year.
“That’s probably a new low (number),” Clark said.
The Sequim School Board meets next virtually for a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, and for a regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.
See www.sequimschools.org or call 360-582-3260 for more information.
Sequim School District food service routes
Below are bus routes for Sequim-area youths of ages 2-18. Distribution is Mondays (two breakfasts, two lunches per student) and Wednesdays (three breakfasts, three lunches per student).
Meals are also available in three other locations on Mondays and Wednesdays:
• 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Greywolf Elementary School, 171 Carlsborg Road
• 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sequim Middle School, 301 W. Hendrickson Road
• 4:30-6 p.m. at Sequim Central Kitchen, 221 W. Fir St.
BUS ROUTE 1
9 a.m. — Louella Road-US Highway 101
9:15 a.m. — 7 Cedars Casino parking lot, 270756 US Highway 101
9:40 a.m. — Critter Country @ 9:40am
10:10 a.m. — John Wayne Marina parking lot (east end), 2577 W. Sequim Bay Road
10:25 a.m. — Independence Drive
10:50 a.m. — Many Feather Way-Woodcock Road
11:05 a.m. — Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2769 Towne Road
BUS ROUTE 2
9:10 a.m. — SkyRidge Golf Course, 7015 Old Olympic Highway
9:25 a.m. — W. Nelson Road-Old Olympic Highway
9:40 a.m. — Hogback Road-Cays Road (gravel area)
9:55 a.m. — Voice of America entrance
10:10 a.m. — Ridgeview Drive-Ridge Place
10:25 a.m. — Martha Lane (gravel area)
10:45 a.m. — House Road-Cottonwood Lane
BUS ROUTE 3
9:20 a.m. — Agnew Soccer Fields, North Bar Road
9:35 a.m. — Agnew Store, 2863 Old Olympic Highway
9:50 a.m. — R Corner Grocery, 256421 US Highway 101
10 a.m. — Clallam County Transit stop at Conestoga Quarters RV, 40 Sieberts Creek Road
10:15 a.m. — Clallam County Transit stop at O’Brien Road
10:33 a.m. — Blue Mountain Transfer Station, 1469 Blue Mountain Road
BUS ROUTE 4
9:50 a.m. — Robin Hill County Park (Agnew)
9:30 a.m. — Sherburne Road-Atterberry Road
9:50 a.m. — Fish Hatchery Road (gravel area)
10:05 a.m. — Mobile fuel station, 33 Taylor Cutoff Road
10:25 a.m. — Sequim Little League fields, 124 W. Silberhorn Road
10:40 a.m. — Dungeness Meadows
10:55 a.m. — River Road-Happy Valley Road (gravel pull-out area)
BUS ROUTE 5
9:10 a.m. — Mountain View Court Apartments, 303 S. Fifth Ave.
9:45 a.m. — Seabreeze Apartments, 525 McCurdy Road
BUS ROUTE 6
9:10 a.m. — Elk Creek Apartments, 90 S. Rhodefer Road
9:45 a.m. — Carrie Blake Community Park, 202 N. Blake Road