James Widdifield, Minden, NE

School-led programs continue to support their community during COVID

August 21, 2020 |

We are asking how COVID-19 is impacting rural communities. Read below for a perspective from Superintendent James Widdifield of Minden, NE. You can share yours here: http://bit.ly/iaartcovid

Minden has a few challenges for a school district. We cover about 311 square miles and could have about 200 students ride the bus out of the 840 that attend. We have reached out to all the companies in this area to help get families either in or out of town to have access to the internet for the remainder of the school year. These companies have been outstanding, and we appreciate their help. Not all of these families are low income, but some would fall into that category. The district also purchased four hotspots for the Upland and Heartwell area and put them into community buildings that would be secure and a resource for that area. We feel this is the best way we can keep our students engaged in more than academics, but socially with their friends and teachers. I believe that the social piece at this time is just as important as academics. Knowing they are okay and their friends are doing well will give them a better outlook than what they see or read on social media. This situation is not easy for anyone, and we are very fortunate to live in the community we do.

We started a group of local officials to discuss what we are doing in the county. Hospital, churches, police, city, county attorney, Two Rivers Health, business, banks, pharmacy, and newspaper. I reached out to the hospital CEO and talked to him about getting a group together to discuss how we would handle this together and be on the same page with our community. We talked about health measures that would need to be used and the do’s and don’ts of the pandemic. It started small with hospital, city, school, Emergency management, and pharmacy, we met in person for about two weeks. We now have a Zoom call every Monday at 4:00 to discuss what everyone is seeing in their areas, get recommendations from the hospital and work together. One later addition was Bethany Home, nursing home. When they went on lock down the school supplied 4 iPads for residents to use and communicate with their family. This group has worked very well and has expanded outside of Minden to Axtell and Wilcox. We are getting out a lot of meals during this pandemic and out of this we had serval businesses donate to a fund to help families that have reduced hours or laid off for weekend meals through our local grocery store, we run the weekend meals through the school. I hope that helps, a few numbers 9000 meals a week and about 19 weekend meals.

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