LAKEWOOD — Children wearing pajamas stood outside their homes, waiting for the bus to pull up with their breakfasts.
It’s around 9 a.m. Wednesday, and usually they’d be in school.
They filled their arms with milk cartons to bring back to their siblings. Adults were waiting nearby, some with bags to carry the food home.
Gov. Jay Inslee ordered every school in the state to close on Tuesday, to protect people from the coronavirus. Every district must still provide children 18 and under with breakfast and lunch each school day, at no cost to families.
The Lakewood School District started its program on the first day of closures, and handed out about 600 meals.
On Wednesday, the district served 1,224 kids. Thursday that number was 1,416, Superintendent Scott Peacock said. That’s more than half of the district’s enrollment of 2,616 students.
Amie Verellen-Grubbs is the assistant director of teaching and learning at Lakewood schools. She’s been helping coordinate the meal plan.
The district has been sending out school buses on normal routes each morning. Leftover food is then taken to four different locations, including to three churches. Many other districts have given out most meals at pick-up sites.
The Lakewood School District covers 23 square miles in a spread-out area around Smokey Point and Lake Goodwin. That’s one reason it decided to deliver the meals.
“We are more rural, and kids can’t really walk to our schools,” Verellen-Grubbs said.
The district also wanted to make sure every family had a chance to get food, while keeping people from gathering in one place.
The Sultan School District has a similar system. Food has been handed out at bus stops, as well as at Gold Bar Elementary and Sultan Middle School. About 2,000 students are enrolled in Sultan schools.
On Wednesday, 753 children were served, up from 633 the day before, said Daniel Baller, director of child nutrition services.
The Lake Stevens School District started to hand out meals on Monday to its roughly 9,670 students. In all, 4,432 meals have been served, said Mollie Langum, food and nutrition services supervisor.
Staff have also been delivering food to homeless students and those without transportation. The district is discussing visiting more locations, district spokesperson Jayme Taylor said.
One of the largest districts in Snohomish County is the Edmonds School District, with about 21,760 students. Each day the district has fed more than 1,000 students, spokesperson Harmony Weinberg said.
Meals are available at more than 20 sites and the district is considering adding more, she said. Deliveries are available upon request.
More than 21,200 students attend Everett Public Schools. Lunches have been handed out at schools and apartment buildings.
On Monday that district provided meals for 632 children, and on Tuesday that number was 958, spokesperson Kathy Reeves said.
Some districts are providing more deliveries starting Monday.
Darrington School District is smaller than most, with 454 students. All grades attend class on one campus. The district has been handing out meals there, and on Wednesday provided 45 meals, Superintendent Buck Marsh said.
Next week the district will start to deliver meals by bus around 11 a.m., to homes farther outside of town.
The Arlington School District has been handing out lunches at three of its schools, but on Monday will begin to deliver to another 10 locations.
That district served 252 students on Tuesday and 401 on Wednesday, spokesperson Gary Sabol said. Around 6,000 children attend Arlington schools.
At the Snohomish School District, buses will go out on 36 different routes starting next week. Anything left over will be available to pick up at each of the district’s elementary schools, except the Central Primary Center.
Food trucks will also be open at the Snohomish Boys & Girls Club, the Snohomish Aquatic Center and Snohomish High School.
Families are encouraged to check school district websites for the most up-to-date information.
Back at Lakewood High School, dozens of adults loaded big tubs and coolers onto school buses. Voices traveled as people yelled out instructions, and others asked where they needed to help.
Workers loaded food earlier this morning at Lakewood High School, before dropping off meals at bus stops.
Yesterday, the district reached about 600 children. Story soon @EverettHerald. pic.twitter.com/lP0S5hoa7E— Stephanie Davey (@stephrdavey) March 18, 2020
Three workers were assigned to each bus. On Wednesday, Susan John drove her usual route while Courtney Farr and Sarah Carper handed out food.
Without this job, they may have been out of work during the school closures. All are classified staff.
“We get to help these kids and families, and that makes us feel good,” John said. “But then we also have someone taking care of us. It’s a big strong community.”
At a few of the stops, no one came outside. John lightly honked the horn, but figured the kids were probably still sleeping.
She and Farr both work at English Crossing Elementary School and have checked in on some of their students during the drive.
“It’s kind of a point of contact for us, because we miss them and are worried about them,” Farr said. “It was so immediate of a shut down, that one minute it was ‘See you tomorrow,’ and then there wasn’t a tomorrow.”
“I want to make sure they’re doing OK,” she said. “I want to make sure they’re getting their needs.”
It made the group feel better to see more kids than the day before. They handed out meals for 74 children — up from 50 on Tuesday.
“I feel so much less discouraged than yesterday,” Farr said.
“The word’s getting out,” Carper added.