Deb Paulman, South Platte, NE

Lunch, breakfast, and sweet treats for students at home

July 15, 2020 |
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We are asking how COVID-19 is impacting rural communities. Read below for a perspective from Deb Paulman of South Platte, NE. You can share yours here: http://bit.ly/iaartcovid

Many schools are giving students lunches, but South Platte is delivering those meals to students via their usual bus routes. Since they have many students who live in the country that spans a wide range around their area, bus drivers are able to take breakfast AND lunch to children - no matter where they live! Also, the principal and superintendent personally delivered Dilly Bars to all students who made the honor roll in third quarter. Instead of taking a couple of hours, these trips took over NINE HOURS! Students and their families were able to visit with their schools' leaders...at a distance...while also feeling recognized for their great work. What a special memory!

Through the cafeteria program at Brady Public Schools, students can now get "Grab and Go" lunch and breakfast. The school has used this program to send out encouraging messages to the kids in their meal packs and also through a cool video they made and shared on social media which featured cafeteria workers! They also collaborated with the village to pass out sidewalk chalk and hand sanitizer to every student that picked up a meal so that the kids could leave messages for one another on the sidewalks throughout the community. If children get sick, the cafeteria staff delivers meals to doorsteps so families wouldn't miss out!

A popular spring event for students is the ESU 16 hosted STAR talent show for students with special needs. When it became evident we would not be able to hold the talent show in the usual way, we were very disappointed. However, when one young man expressed his extreme disappointment during a zoom meeting, we decided there had to be a way to still make the talent show happen! Zoom is the name of the game right now and almost all kids and families know how to use that format, so it was a natural solution! At the appointed hour, the “zoom room” started dinging with students and staff from over a 300 mile radius joining together to celebrate their talents and their friendships! Students joined in a dance video to warm up and then each student took a turn sharing their talent. There were singers, dog trainers, song writers, video gamers and a calf roper sharing their special talents. It was fun to share and see the talents, but at the end of the show, we all decided the absolute best part was seeing the faces of our friends and spending time with them even if it was long distance!

Check out the YouTube channel. This is an example of the kinds of resources ESU staff are providing for parents and teachers. This particular example is from our Early Childhood team. Please subscribe to the Early Childhood YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCurBPsKj2z1q_uDNUIMwxqA They are sharing ideas with families of preschoolers centered around some of their favorite books.

“Mommy, can I PLEASE go outside. Just to sit on the bench? Just for 5 minutes? Oh...... I know, we have to wait until Bubby (or Brother) goes to sleep.” Why? Because Brother has autism, because Brother runs, because Brother gets really upset when others go out and he can’t, because there is no fence, because it isn’t safe. The whole family stays inside until there is enough supervision to make sure Brother is safe and can’t run too far. The places Brother can play outside safely are all closed now - the school, the park, the pool. He doesn’t understand COVID-19 closure, he doesn’t understand why he can’t go outside. He gets frustrated and sad, but can’t tell his family how he feels. Autism gets in the way.

Many things from COVID-19 closures have affected educators. A few things break our hearts in a way that compels us to move forward, make a difference, and make things happen. All this family needs is a fence. A fence would keep Brother safe and allow all the children and family to go outside. A fence would change the lives of this family. To Brother’s ESU team, a fence was a way to make a positive difference, a meaningful difference. A way to change the lives of this family. So Brother’s ESU team asked the rest of their ESU family to help out, then contacted an area family support organization, and together they built a fence. Together they made life easier and better for a little boy with autism and his family. COVID-19 has closed many things, but not the hearts of the ESU 16 family. #BetterTogether

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