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News >  Education

Answering calls for help: Riverside and Mead school districts work to fill communities’ needs

Riverside Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Mindy Shaw wakes up the three old computers in her classroom, Feb. 11, 2013, before Shaw won a $10,000 classroom makeover grant. While schools are closed this spring because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Riverside School District has created Riverside Cares, a website and call center, to help answer the communities needs. The district is also handing out Chromebooks to students that need them. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Riverside Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Mindy Shaw wakes up the three old computers in her classroom, Feb. 11, 2013, before Shaw won a $10,000 classroom makeover grant. While schools are closed this spring because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Riverside School District has created Riverside Cares, a website and call center, to help answer the communities needs. The district is also handing out Chromebooks to students that need them. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

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School districts across the state are marshaling their resources to feed and educate students even though schools are closed, including the Mead and Riverside school districts north of Spokane. In addition, the Riverside School District has created some innovative approaches to help its community and its students.

The district has created a website and call center called Riverside Cares. Superintendent Ken Russell said three staff members are assigned to answer the phones and match people’s needs to people who are able to help with everything from food to child care and rides to get sack lunches. It officially launched Monday.

“It’s for students, families and the community,” he said. “It’s pretty simple. We’ve already distributed food to people in need. Our staff members are working hard.”

Russell said he’s not aware of any other local districts doing anything similar. “I think it’s a Riverside thing, as far as I know,” Russell said. “It’s just something we’ve developed because we think there’s a need.”

The school district is in a unique position because there isn’t a town inside the district, Russell said. That makes the school district the center of the community and means it has to take the lead in any community effort, he said.

“It’s going to be necessary as we go forward and get further into this,” he said.

The phone number to call to offer help or receive assistance is (509) 464-8234. Contact emails and other information are available on the Riverside Cares link at the top of the page at teamriverside.org.

The district has taken the step of forwarding all the teachers’ classroom phones to their home or cellphones. If students need to reach teachers, they just need to call the classroom number.

“It also provides staff members a way to check in on their kids without using their personal number,” he said.

Russell said other school districts have reached out to him to find out how it was done so they can try to replicate it.

Another initiative the district has launched is One Caring Adult.

“We want to make sure all our 1,500 kids have a caring adult who will check in on them at least once a week,” he said.

To serve a more basic need, the district is handing out bagged lunch and breakfast every weekday from 11 a.m. to noon at seven locations. Children must be present to pick up, but meals are available to anyone ages 1-18 whether they are a Riverside student or not.

The pickup sites are: Riverside Elementary, 3802 E. Deer Park-Milan Road; Chattaroy Elementary, 25717 N. Yale Road; the Elk Sentinel, 40012 N. Elk Camden Road; Aloha Pines, 40602 N. Newport Highway; Rustic Ridge Mobile Park, 35312 N. Newport Highway; Peaceful Valley Church, 201 Allen Road; Fire Station 40, 27515 N. Elk-Chattaroy Road.

The district is handing out Chromebooks to any students who need them. The district also distributed 50 internet hot spots and had another 50 donated for distribution. The district has ordered 50 more that should arrive in two weeks. The hot spots are necessary for those who can’t get internet access to do online learning, Russell said.

“We’re rural, and we don’t have good internet access in parts of our district,” he said.

Mead answers needs: food, tech, day care

The Mead School District took a unique approach by having families fill out online forms last week listing any needs they had in the areas of food, day care and technology. The district received 1,630 responses before the online form closed and has been receiving dozens of phone calls since, said Jolene Andres, executive assistant to superintendent Shawn Woodward.

The food question was designed to gauge how many people might need the sack lunches and breakfasts the district started handing out Monday. Of those who returned the online form, 827 said they needed assistance with food.

“Clearly we anticipate that being much, much higher,” Andres said.

The district is handing out food to all children age 18 and under whether they are Mead students or not. Children must be present to pick up. The sites open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each weekday at Brentwood Elementary, 406 W. Regina Ave.; Colbert Elementary, 4526 E. Greenbluff Road; Evergreen Elementary, 215 W. Eddy Ave.; Meadow Ridge Elementary, 15601 N. Freya St.; Midway Elementary, 821 E. Midway Road; Prairie View Elementary, 2606 W. Johannsen Road; Shiloh Hills Elementary, 505 E. Stonewall Ave.; and Northwood Middle School, 12908 N. Pittisburg St.

Meals are available from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekdays at the Forest Creek Apartments, 13110 N. Addison St.; the Hill N Dale Apartments, 8821 N. Hill N Dale St.; Cedar Creek Village, 8502 N. Nevada St.; Wild Rose Gas/RV Park, 23106 N. U.S. Highway 395; Fire Station 47, 9814 E. Greenbluff Road; and Fire Station 48, 17711 N. Mt. Spokane Park Drive.

Meals are also available from 11:20 to 11:50 a.m. at the Woodhaven Apartments, 12424 N. Fairwood Drive; the Mead Food Bank, 12611 N. Wilson St.; Deer Run at Northpointe, 1225 E. Westview Court; and St. Joseph’s Church, 3720 E. Colbert Road.

Quite a few families indicated they needed access to Chromebooks. About 700 were handed out Tuesday at Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools. As of Monday, there were another 200 requests waiting to be filled.

“We will have a round two either late this week or early next,” Andres said. “We know we have the capacity to make this available.”

Anyone needing internet access is welcome to go to any Mead school, park near the building and access the school’s Wi-Fi, Andres said. Student Chromebooks should connect automatically. Instructions for guest access is available online at mead354.org.

Access to day care has been a bit trickier, Andres said. The district is currently serving about 75 children of health care workers and first responders at five locations. But other families also indicated they needed help with child care and the district will evaluate whether it can add any more, she said.

“We’re going to take this week and take a look at where we’re at and see if we have the staff to expand that,” she said.

But if the district does add more child care services, it will likely just be for the people who filled out the online forms, Andres said.

“We have to make sure we do it well, and it’s safe to do social distancing,” she said. “If we expand, it will just be to those we know about already.”

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