Terry Wall and Julie Smith are an effective team. A few times a week, they fill up about a third of a school bus with meals for students and deliver them to houses across Statesville.
As the bus rumbles along streets, Wall cracks jokes through her face mask while driving by homes of friends and other local landmarks. Smith darts between rows of seats with coolers in them making sure plastic bags are stuffed with enough food. When the bus stops, she walks outside with a hurried step and places food on a few porches, knocking on each door as she goes. Some people open their doors or wave through windows as she goes about her work.
“We’re trying to knock and drop,” Smith said. “Contact is limited because that’s what we’re supposed to be doing due to social distancing.”
Being distant from students is something new for both of them.
Both Wall and Smith have worked at Cloverleaf Elementary since it opened in 2010, and had years of experience as educators before then. But their jobs are more than making sure students get to and from school. Each of them works in classrooms as teacher’s assistants; Wall also serves as Cloverleaf’s transportation coordinator.
Their jobs have them doing everything from preparing additional material for teachers to assisting with lesson plans. The talked about how kids are given a themed project each week; the last one was about recycling.
“Well, we miss our kids terribly,” Wall said.
Students in Iredell County have been focused on remote learning since late March per an order from Gov. Roy Cooper. He announced Friday that due to ongoing health concerns from the coronavirus pandemic schools would remain closed the rest of the academic year, effectively extending the new normal for the state’s educators.
“We’re educators and we understand how hard this is on us,” Smith said. “And how hard it is for parents having their routines interrupted.”
Wall said she empathizes with parents at this time; she’s hearing frustrations regarding the struggles of learning from home.
“My own daughter has two small children,” she said. “Her opinion now is that teachers should be paid $500 million a year.”
Smith said at the least she’s thankful for all the technology available to today’s students to assist them in learning, but she also worries about what kids aren’t getting by missing time together in school.
“We help children learn to tie (their) shoes,” she said. “We help children learn to navigate disagreements, we teach them academically and socially.”
And with schools now officially closed, that means each knock Smith makes on someone’s door has a little more meaning behind it.