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National outlet featured a story about meal delivery service, profile of bus driver connecting students with food

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA SCHOOL DISTRICT - For five days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic, bus drivers in the Estacada School District are driving their regular routes and delivering food to students. The efforts were recently highlighted by Time Magazine.

The Estacada School District's support of students during the COVID-19 outbreak has received national attention.

Time Magazine recently featured two stories about the district's efforts to connect all students with meals during Oregon's statewide school closures, which are expected to last through the end of April.

In addition to two locations in town where any of the school district's students, ages 18 and younger, can pick up food, buses are on their regular routes and connecting students with meals every weekday. More than 500 students are receiving meals through the program each day.

The school district's meal program was featured as part of Time's "Apart. Not Alone" series, and bus driver Jody White was included in the story "Meet 27 People Bridging Divides Across America."

Journalists at Time initially reached out through the school district through Twitter and later connected with Superintendent Ryan Carpenter, parent Laura Frazey and White.

Carpenter told the Pamplin Media Group that he hopes school staff and community members "feel supported through a tough time" because of Time's recognition.

"Our vision has been to be a premier school district, and the exemplary work that our staff has done during this time of change and crisis has shown that we are well on our way to achieving this vision," he said.

Estacada School District Communications Director Maggie Kelly said she hopes the coverage "brings people some light in a tough time and can help them feel proud of this community."

She noted that delivering the meals had been a key element of the food program's success.

"We're meeting people where they are — literally," she said.

She also praised school district staff and community members for being ready to adapt to a different situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with staff delivering meals, teachers are conducting virtual school days in Estacada.

"As soon as we got a grasp of the situation, everyone was on board. There was no grumbling. Everyone was willing to go above and beyond without us even having to ask," she said. "People worked hard and quickly to get students the support they need."

Along with meals and education, the district's efforts also are providing Estacada's younger community members with a sense of normality during this time.

"It's heartwarming to see the diversity of needs that we're able to meet," Kelly said, noting the program also is supporting students in ways that school leaders hadn't initially expected, including giving students a sense of structure and connecting them with a staff member each day.

"Food is a main necessity, but this is so much more than that," Kelly said., "It lets kids know that we're not forgetting about them and we still care about them."


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