BIKE-THRU SERVICE – La Conner Elementary student Ryan Reynolds put a new spin on take-out dining last week. He bicycled to a school food stand on the La Conner Middle & High School campus last Friday. La Conner Schools Migrant Ed coordinator Heidi Darling served Ryan and his younger brother, Randall. The school district is providing take-out and meal deliveries during state-mandated school closures scheduled through April 24 due to the coronavirus outbreak. – Photo by Brad Reynolds
La Conner student gladly cashes in on school campus closure
By Bill Reynolds
The devil’s in the details, they say.
But for Shelter Bay resident and La Conner Weekly News proofreader Eileen Engelstad, she found an angel willing to get in the weeds while on break from school during the coronavirus outbreak.
Violet Holson, a La Conner seventh-grader, hasn’t idly spent her time while off from school.
She showed the same attention to detail ridding Engelstad’s landscape of weeds as she normally does in the classroom.
“One day last week,” Engelstad explains, “two girls were walking past in my neighborhood. When I saw them, I said that when they got sufficiently bored I had some weeds they could pull for $10 an hour.”
Little did Engelstad realize, but she had planted a seed.
“Around noon the next day, my doorbell rang and there stood one of the girls and their dad,” Engelstad told the Weekly News. “They asked if I was serious about the weeding.”
Violet sure was. She was already wearing gardening gloves.
Engelstad wisely hired her on the spot.
“She sat and pulled weeds everywhere,” Engelstad said afterward.
The energetic teen kept at it and was still there when Engelstad returned from a trip to Fred Meyer.
“Her mom said later that Violet raved about how much fun it was,” Engelstad said.
Especially when she was paid for her efforts.
There were rewards for Engelstad, a retired math teacher, as well.
“We became new best friends,” she said. “It just goes to show that something great can come out of a tough situation.
“Instead of being idle with nothing to do while school is closed,” said Engelstad, “she found something where she made money. It was something that made me happy and made her happy.”
Which is saying a lot in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.
The idea of homework being a drag is so old school these days.
Now it’s helping La Conner students battle cabin fever and occasional boredom as they wait out campus closures through April 24.
Teachers here have lined up relevant on-line and other at-home learning options for students while also mindful of the stress families might experience coping with restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19. “Our teachers at the school,” said parent Sarah Walls, “have been wonderful at keeping in touch with us and they should be commended.”
La Conner Superintendent of Schools Dr. Whitney Meissner said communication with families is among a handful of ways teachers have lent support to students and parents since schools were closed statewide by Gov. Jay Inslee last week. “I have had several parents share with me that teachers are being amazing with their communication during the closure,” she said.
La Conner teachers have offered access to books and activity sheets, suggested “virtual” learning resources, set up educational websites for families and provided opportunities to complete missed work or retake tests, Meissner said. In addition, La Conner High English/Language Arts teacher Suzann Keith said faculty will be able to adjust lesson plans once school resumes to account for the minimum six week closure.
Keith said much work completed during the unplanned break can be viewed as either enrichment or maintenance of current academic achievement levels.
For Walls and her family, that can run the gamut from home and backyard STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities to concerts and webinars offered on-line.
“Next week,” said Walls, a photographer and telecommuter, “we’re going to take a free on-line painting course one day and I’m starting to look at other websites for free classes which they can do while I am working.”
Her husband, Toby, who works at Conway Feed, helps when he can but is employed in a rare industry that has seen an uptick in activity during the virus crisis.
“He’s been super busy at work,” explained Walls, “because everyone has been stocking up on animal feed. Since my schedule is a little more flexible because I work from home, I’m doing most of the scheduling stuff. We’re kind of learning as we go.”
As in the classroom, research is the key.
“I find the longer I am on-line the more offerings I see for free things.” Walls said.
Teachers will be staying ahead of the learning curve, too, said Meissner.
“Our teachers will have multiple opportunities for professional development and planning during the closure,” she said.
The rest of the La Conner staff has remained busy, Meissner stressed.
“The classified staff jumping in to get our kids fed is also incredible,” she said.
School employees have been providing breakfast and lunch on a pickup and delivery basis from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We’re hoping to have hot meals on Wednesdays,” said La Conner Schools Migrant Education Specialist Heidi Darling, who worked a campus food stand on Friday alongside elementary school para-professional Jen Gudmundson. “We’re going to try to do that once a week,” Darling said, as loud, upbeat music blared in the background.
During their shift, Darling and Gudmundson filled to-go bags for delivery by Loran James of the Swinomish Education Department, and a La Conner High basketball and softball coach. James distributed meals to families with limited transportation, Meissner said.
“I’m so in awe,” she said, “of the kindness and spirit of community we have.”