On Friday, March 13, 2020 the Snowline Joint Unified School District released a statement saying that due to new information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the district would be suspending classes and student activities through March 29th. By March 19th, the closures were pushed to May 1st. These events have drastically changed students’ and local residents’ way of life.
Gabrielle Weber is a senior at Chaparral High School and has lived in the High Desert region her entire life. Until recently, her focus had been on graduating high school and joining the armed forces. But now, things are different. “As a senior, it’s very hard. I was on the cusp of graduating,” she explains. With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s warning that schools may not reopen before summer break, students may miss out on experiences that cannot be made up. For Weber, this is a big price to pay. “I’m not gonna be able to go to prom, which I already had my dress and my date and my ticket. I’m not gonna be able to go to graduation or my grad night. Which is hard.” The news has heavily impacted student athletes since all sporting events have also been canceled. While schools may be closed for the foreseeable future, they are still providing meals for students under the age of 18.
The decision to close schools on March 13th went into effect on the 16th, which was also the first day that Snowline schools began handing out bagged breakfast and lunches between the hours of 10am through noon. With students present, meals can be picked up while families remain in their vehicle at Serrano High School, Baldy Mesa Elementary, Pinon Hills Elementary, Vista Verde Elementary, and Wrightwood Elementary. This drive-up service is meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to provide students with nutritional meals. It’s also meant to help families who rely on those two meals for their children to be fed during the working hours of the day.
Sandra Mendez is a Food Service Worker at Serrano High School and has been a local resident for 13 years. As one of two cafeteria workers handing out meals, her job in the times of COVID-19 comes at great risk. As ten o’clock strikes, parents and students pass by the meal cart in front of the high school, telling the lunch ladies how many students are in the vehicle. After a glance to verify the numbers, Mendez hands two meal bags per student. One for breakfast and one for lunch. On this day, students are receiving a muffin, fruit, and milk for breakfast. On the lunch menu was a pizza bagel, a vegetable, fruit, and milk. As the vehicles pass, Mendez greets everyone with a smile and a wave, and on many occasions, even knows the students by name.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended everyone’s way of life, and medical professionals warn that things will get worse before they get better. For schools, this episode has launched them into uncharted territory as they scramble to continue to provide students with education even as the students remain at home under the stay at home orders. To this end, the SJUSD is launching a distance learning program called Continued Learning at Home, that began on March 30th. The program will allow students to continue their education through a web-based format.
For students like Weber, these are stressful times. “Those of us who have to stay at home all day every day now and do nothing, its rough. It’s really hard. Especially since a lot of parents won’t let their kids out to see their friends because they’re worried, I can’t just say one thing,” she says about trying to explain what worries her most. “But I can tell you that I’m worried.”
Photo: Would You Like Fries with that?: Sandra Mendez (left) and Elizabeth Guy (right) are both Food Service Workers at Serrano High School. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they are feeding SJUSD students as they drive by in their cars. PHOTO BY: I.I. Cabreras – NewsPlus