Author: Emily Sullivan
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Kentucky’s Campbell County School District is finding that the difficulties of a crisis can bring out the best in people. We recently spoke with the district’s Director of School Improvement Connie Pohlgeers and Director of Transportation Kerry Hill about how they’re adapting to the changing needs of their students while also discovering how strong their community can be.
Between the two, Connie and Kerry have over 50 years of experience in public education. Their industry knowledge has led them to expertly manage the challenges that COVID-19 have created, but they aren’t doing it alone. Connie credited Kentucky’s governor for inspiring “all of us in Kentucky to rise up and do the best we possibly can” and “to think outside the box to make things happen for students and families.” Thinking outside the box is exactly what Campbell County is doing to support their students.
Connie says their staff members are serving approximately 3,000 meals per day across ten locations. According to Kerry, Campbell County has “well over 100 staff members, and we have 80 to 90 percent of our staff participating. It’s pretty amazing when you think of that.” And everyone is doing their part. Connie explained to us that “bus drivers and monitors distribute the meals, the cafeteria workers prepare them, and the nurses are checking people’s temperature before they’re allowed to come in [to help].”
This effort is not without risk. Kerry described how “most transportation departments are senior adult or retiree driven. We have people that want to do this. It doesn’t mean they don’t have anxiety about it, I just think there’s a sense of purpose and there’s a benefit that they get from doing this for their community.” Many families throughout the state rely on the free or reduced lunches the schools provide and, according to Kerry, “People have been really grateful to our staff to be receiving these meals. It’s a moving experience.”
Kerry credited a combination of driver experience and their data in Versatrans that made it possible to plan out the meal deliveries. He says, “our drivers know where the needs are in the community. … We’ve used the routing software to know where our pockets of need are … [and to identify] a place to park a bus and serve a meal from” for the ten buses they’re now running.
One thing that’s clear when talking to Connie and Kerry: this community cares. The drivers are delivering meals and homework assignments, school counselors have started offering virtual check-ins and school-based mental therapists are providing tele-therapy appointments to at-risk students. Kerry says their efforts do not go unnoticed: “Our community with their level of appreciation and gratitude for what we’re trying to do… it’s a unique place. In Campbell County it’s a unified effort. Everybody is really trying to pull together to make it through in this trying time.” Connie added, “Our motto is ‘Whatever it takes.’ People do truly live by that. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”