ONTARIO — “We will be here tomorrow, too. We’ll be here every day.”
After loading a car with grab and go lunches Ontario High School’s Yolanda Espinoza made sure to reassure everyone that came up to the school that the free lunches were here to stay.
Ontario High School, like every public school in the State of Oregon, was shuttered starting Monday and will remain closed until April 28. This was started with an announcement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday night, and the closure was extended on Tuesday afternoon.
On Friday, Ontario School District officials, like many in the state, scrambled to figure out how they would be able to take care of the students, especially those that rely on school meals.
On Monday, the first day of the school closure, Ontario School District distributed about 400 lunches. That number skyrocketed to 860 on Tuesday.
“It’s been a good response,” Espinoza said.
Anabel Ortiz-Chavolla added that members of the Ontario Migrant Education Program have been delivering meals themselves to students who they know can’t make the trip to the schools in the day.
At May Roberts Elementary School, the cafeteria staff has set up three locations where students can pick up meals (the east side of the building, the west side of the building and one location at Beck-Kiwanis Park). At just the front entrance, Carol Pena said they distributed 120 lunches on Tuesday morning.
“We just need to make sure the kids get food,” Pena said.
Also seen on Tuesday were students who were happy to see their favorite cafeteria staff members again. After just one day of school closure, Ontario School District Superintendent Nicole Albisu agreed that many of the students of Ontario School District were going to miss the structure of having school.
“It’s just like when we talk about the mobility of the families in our district,” Albisu said. “Because a lot of our students, their lives are already unstable. And the stability, that’s what school has to offer.”
Thinking back to when she first started her education career in McDermitt, Albisu said one of her school administrators gave her an item of advice that she has never forgotten:
“The one thing that we can do every single day is provide a safe, supportive, secure and loving environment to kids for the six to seven hours that we have them every single day,” Albisu quoted.
And when it comes to students of all ages, Albisu said she knows that every teacher in the district already can’t wait to get back to work.
“We all hate this,” Albisu said.