Coping with Coronavirus

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Schools deliver meals to homebound children

  • Press photo/Jake Browning - Volunteers at Franklin High School load breakfasts and lunches onto a bus to deliver to local students.
    Press photo/Jake Browning - Volunteers at Franklin High School load breakfasts and lunches onto a bus to deliver to local students.
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Carol Anne Elliott drives a school bus every weekday morning. She enjoys spending time with the children of Macon County before dropping them off at school to get in a full day of learning.

But right now, children aren’t allowed to go to school because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Elliott is still driving her bus, and her mission now is just as important.

Tuesday, March 17 was the first day that schools completely closed their doors to students in compliance with an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper. It was also the day that Macon County Schools began its emergency food distribution plan.

Sites at Franklin High School, Mountain View Intermediate School, South Macon Elementary School, Highlands School and Nantahala School began handing out full breakfasts and lunches to families who dropped by to pick them up.

School buses also began delivering meals along their regular routes. Bus drivers already recognized which houses students were in, so they would just pull up nearby and honk the horn to get families’ attention.

These meals were given out free of charge to any families that needed them, and even after just one day, the total distribution numbers were astounding.

“A total of 4,282 meals were served on our very first at-home learning day,” Macon County Schools public information officer Renee Burt said. “This would not have been possible without the joint efforts of our entire Macon County Schools family as well as our community.”

Assembling all of those meals did take a small army of workers from all over the Macon County Schools community. Volunteers and staff members alike spent hours packing bags, loading them onto buses and getting them to families. For the people willing to lend their time to the cause, however, it was all a labor of love.

“I just love that I still have a chance to see my kids every day,” Elliott said of driving her route to deliver meals. “It’s easy not to notice just how much you’ll miss them until something like this happens.”

Freda Striewski, a Macon County Schools grandparent, picked up eight meals for her grandchildren on Wednesday morning and said she was very grateful for the dedication that the school system showed to feeding its kids.

“I think it’s amazing that they’re doing this,” Striewski said. “It’s especially important right now because parents just weren’t expecting it. Nobody was.”

Many school systems around the state and the country are able to undertake food delivery services like this with the help of their state and federal governments. Todd Gibbs, director of auxiliary services for Macon County Schools, said that while it’s unclear how long the program will be necessary, he is confident that the school system won’t have to halt distribution for financial reasons at any foreseeable point.

“We are prepared to continue this system for as long as needed,” Gibbs said. “As long as we are funded by the state and/or federal government and are given the directive, we could do this indefinitely.”

That’s no problem for folks like Elliott. She looks forward to taking care of her kids with the rest of the Macon County Schools community in whatever way they need.

“I’m so thankful that we’re doing this,” Elliott said. “I’ve got so many kids just on my route that count on this, and it’s great to see how everyone has come together because of it.”

School distribution sites and bus delivery routes will be held every weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for as long as the school system remains closed.