BOONE — At the start of its fifth week of remote learning and food distribution as a result of COVID-19, Watauga County Schools had served 94,411 meals to children in the county.
WCS spokesperson Garrett Price said it is the school system’s priority and full intention to continue serving meals as long as possible. He added that WCS received clarification from state officials on April 22 that as long as North Carolina remains in a state of emergency, the school system will be able to continue to use school buses to distribute meals.
“The plan is to distribute meals for as long as possible, even if it means we have to modify how and where the meals are available,” Price said.
Distributing meals to families takes a lot of coordination and work behind the scenes. Price said he’s received a handful of emails and notes from principals about people doing extraordinary work at each school.
The Friday before the school system’s spring break (April 13-17), school employees and volunteers helped distribute extra meals to provide food to students before the break started. On that day at Watauga High School, a team of a dozen or so members prepared the meals, placed them all into bags, transported the bags to the opposite side of the building and then handed them to families as they drove into the school’s parking lot.
As the pickup day was before Easter, Watauga High School school nurse Shelly Klutz dressed as a bunny and waved as vehicles picked up meals. Some families created signs to display through vehicle windows to show appreciation to volunteers and staff.
While waiting in the line of vehicles to pick up meals, Alice Harmon said the people helping to distribute meals were amazing. She said that even though the volunteers were wearing masks, you could still see their smiles from the expressions on their faces.
“So many people are going above and beyond,” Price said.
Price added that teachers and students are settling into the routine of remote learning the longer it continues. Principals, district leaders and teacher leadership have worked tirelessly to establish new routines and norms to support each other during this period of remote learning, he said.
To help supplement online learning, WCS is also hosting its next pickup of physical materials on Tuesday, April 28. Families can gather materials from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at all of the K-8 schools.
According to Hunter Varipapa, the Watauga Children’s Council early care and education director and the N.C. Pre-K coordinator, the Children’s Council has extended its deadline for NC Pre-K applications. Originally set for April 24, the application deadline will now be June 19. The application extension is a result of the Watauga Children’s Council receiving around half as many applications as in previous years due to COVID-19.
To be eligible for NC Pre-K, a child must be 4 years old on or before Aug. 31 and from a family whose gross income is at or below 75 percent of the state median income. Children from certain military families are eligible without regard to income. Approximately 20 percent of age eligible children enrolled may have family incomes in excess of 75 percent of the state median income risk factors are documented in the following specific categories: developmental disability, limited English proficiency, educational need or a chronic health condition. Although a child may meet one or more eligibility factors, placement is not guaranteed in an NC Pre-K classroom, according to the Children’s Council.
NC Pre-K Applications for the 2020-21 school year are available on The Children’s Council of Watauga County’s website (www.thechildrenscouncil.org) and in a container located on a bench outside of the organization’s office door. Applications can also be picked up at Bethel, Mabel and Green Valley schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as well as from Hardin Park School and Brushy Fork Baptist Church from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Children’s Council is accepting NC Pre-K applications via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), mail (225 Birch St., Suite 3, Boone) and applications may be placed in the black drop box beside the Children’s Council’s office. Applicants will be notified of status of placement during the second week of July.
The Children’s Council of Watauga County’s office is closed to the public until May 15. Children’s Council staff will continue to work remotely and can be contacted via email or phone at (828) 262-5424. Those who call the Children’s Council are asked to leave a detailed message and then staff will respond as soon as possible.