Teamwork eases the task of meal, homework delivery
Jesse Bender spent four years in the United States Marine Corps.
In a world that now coexists with COVID-19, Bender the Tomah school district food services director, has been leaning on a Marine Corps mantra, 'adapt and overcome, utilize what you have.'
The Tomah school district initially postponed classes until April 3. But as the virus continues to reek, Tomah joined all Tomah school districts to revise that schedule. Most schools now operate with an indefinite date of return. Public sentiment continues to grow wondering if a return is even viable this school year.
Adapt and overcome.
Those words continue to ring true for Bender since the district made the decision to suspend school indefinitely. Mobile meal delivery for students started March 19. Food service has continued to streamline meal delivery. Starting Wednesday food service staff started providing Grab and Go lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to decrease the need for parents/children to leave their homes.
Parents can take two lunches for every child under the age of 18 in a household to cover Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday they will get one Grab and Go lunch per child.
Starting on Monday, March 30 families can pick up two Grab and Go lunches to cover Monday and Tuesday, and repeat for Wednesday with two and Friday one. Drop off sites and times remain the same as previously posted:
Monday-Wednesday-Friday Effective Wednesday
Camp Douglas Elementary School Bus Lane 10:30- 11 a.m.
Oakdale Elementary School Bus Lane 11:30- 12 noon
Miller Elementary School Front Door 12:30- 1 p.m.
Wyeville Elementary School Parking Lot 10:30- 11 a.m.
Lemonweir Elementary School Bus Lane 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
City Pool Parking Lot (by Dairy Queen) 12:30- 1 p.m.
Warrens Elementary School Parking Lot 10:30- 11 a.m.
LaGrange Elementary School Bus Lane 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Soccer Field Parking Lot (former Steinhoff land) 12:30- 1 p.m.
Lunches are delivered in brown bags with items individually wrapped and sealed for food security, Bender adds. There have been two people in each band to help hand out lunches. Delivery slots are 30 minutes each.
Meals are prepared at Tomah middle and Tomah high schools
The process has worked smoothly the first few days.
"Things are going well so far," Bender said, adding the number of students getting meals has averaged 350-400 in the early days. That number could go up, could go down.
But as life changes daily with the virus, the same could be said for meal delivery.
"Everything is minute to minute, day to day," Bender said, "Our food vendors continue to operate through this."
When asked his thought on how long COVID-19 could disrupt his job our daily lives, Bender said, "I estimate its duration to be on the long side."
This was the first week district transportation drivers sorted and delivered homework assignments to students. Van and bus drivers were part of two-person teams who traveled to one of four regions in the district to deliver text books, paper assignments and class projects in some case.
On Monday drivers went to respective schools to collect homework. It was returned to the district transportation building where it was sorted for delivery on Tuesday. On Tuesday four mini vans with a driver and 'sorter' departed from transportation en route to respective homes.
Transportation director Jeff Moody said, "the process is very fluid right now. We could be doing this every week or every other week. There are still things to work through.
The main priority is to limit face-to-face contact. On Wednesday Moody and Bender were part of a conference call with other department supervisors and administration to review the district's operational plan to date.
"Things are changing every day," Moody said. "As we get into a more initial surge people will become comfortable. Our goal is to get materials to the students."
Getting completed assignments back to teachers? Another process to assess, Moody added.