DUNDEE — Kelly Houck and other Dundee Central School officials devised a plan for students to get what they needed ahead of a prolonged school closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Monday afternoon, it fell apart.
“Students were supposed to come in Tuesday and get materials ... but after speaking with the Department of Health, we had to close (Tuesday),” Houck, the district superintendent, said Tuesday morning. “I called everyone at 1:30 (p.m.) Monday and said, ‘Change of plans!’ We needed all hands on deck to get everything boxed, organized by bus route and alphabetical order.”
That included instructional material, boxes of food, and musical instruments. On Tuesday morning, district administrators and select staffers boarded all 14 of the district’s buses to deliver those items.
“They literally went door to door. These people were doing tasks that are well outside of their job description,” Houck said. “Myself and other staff stayed behind to answer the phones, and they have been ringing. People are calling and we are creating a list of everything that did not get delivered, and we will be delivering those soon. I think we had 700-some items, and only about 50 or 60 did not get delivered. That’s pretty good. Our efforts were very thorough and organized.”
The buses were loaded about 9 a.m. Tuesday, and everything was delivered in about three hours. Less than 20 people were chosen to deliver the goods, including principals, secretaries and custodians, some dressed in St. Patrick’s Day attire.
“I could not be more proud of my staff and this community, and to the local organizations that reached out wanting to help,” Houck said. “We appreciated that, but we kept it to a small number of people so we would not create an exposure issue with a lot of people.”
Houck said the educational packets should help students stay on top of things until the school hopefully reopens April 13, after scheduled spring break.
“We do not want kids to regress during school closure. The materials we sent home with kids provide a solid review and concept of things they need to learn,” she said. “Our grades 7-12 staff have pathways, by email or cell phone numbers, to contact their students if they need any help or assistance. We are also providing online and digital resources.”
Houck said a similar format is being followed for elementary-level students.
Over the weekend, Houck and Penn Yan Superintendent Howard Dennis made the decision to close schools Monday, open them Tuesday for students to get class materials, then close Wednesday through spring break. That came after talking to colleagues in neighboring districts.
“I think we started our plans at like 3 a.m. Saturday morning,” Houck said. “Howard and I worked together closely on this. It should have been fairly easy, but closing schools Tuesday really threw some challenges our way.
“It’s all about the kids. They are obviously our top priority.”
Houck said during the school closure period — excluding April 6-10, the week of spring recess — lunch and breakfast will be provided for students on a “pick-up-and-go” model. They can be picked up at Dundee, free of charge, from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; on Wednesday, students will get two additional lunches and breakfasts for Thursday and Friday.
Of the approximately 650 students in the district, Houck said about 140 receive free breakfast and lunch. Families in need of meals that can’t get to the school can call (607) 243-5533, ext. 7702, and make arrangements for delivery.
“We have the best staff at DCS, the most dedicated, caring individuals that our students are fortunate to have on their team and in their lives,” Houck said. “This is the real Dundee.”