I Rode the Bus for 93 Miles and 6 Hours So My Students Could have Instructional Packets and Their Families Food

ByAmber Rawlins

While teachers around the country are sending assignments in seconds with the click of a mouse, I rode the bus for 93 miles and six hours so my students at KIPP ENC in Halifax, North Carolina, could have instructional packets to continue their schoolwork. When I hear government officials talk about how successful remote learning is, I know they have never been to Halifax County.

This COVID-19 is awful for our students, who do not have the same connectivity or resources that so many other children do. I know students at my school and in my community are struggling daily.

Along the bus route, I would see students waiting in anticipation, waiting for us to come by. I wish I could say they were waiting only for our packets, but our delivery included food for their families, and that was the bigger draw. I know many of my students came to school sometimes just for the meals. At first, we were doing meal deliveries Monday through Friday, but as the pandemic spread, we switched to delivering packets and bulk food items for our families to lessen the amount of contact.

There is a lot of need here that often gets overlooked. Our students all qualify for free or reduced-priced school lunch, and only 50 percent of my class has access to the internet. Halifax County is a rural town where 22 percent of the people live in poverty and where over 40 percent do not have a subscription to internet services.

We live off the paper mills and textile industry and by farming peanuts, cotton and tobacco. We’re lucky we at least have a Walmart. So, developing remote learning for 2,100 KIPP ENC students was not an equitable option.

Right before the closures, our teachers worked furiously on creating packets, but we didn’t think we were going to be closed for so long. For my class of 18 students, my team and I focused on creating three sets of packets on literacy, science and math. For reading, I printed books, like David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes, on color card-stock paper and attached different reading and comprehension activities and games. For science, my team and I added passages about different animals around the world and experiments they could easily do at home without having to buy new materials. I made sure to give them problem sets that dealt with addition and place value charts so they could at least review what they had learned before.

We’ll be closed for the rest of the year now — and I am worried for my babies. Even with Zoom meetings or communicating on Facebook, it still feels like it is not enough.

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