The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Waitsburg's paraeducators go above and beyond

Paraeducators have picked up extra duties in the school's kitchen recently


October 22, 2020

Beka Compton

Meal prep for one is hard enough, but the paraeducators at the Waitsburg School District make meal prep for 150 plus students look like a breeze.

WAITSBURG-The coronavirus has highlighted some unexpected heroes over the past ten months. The Waitsburg School District has had a handful of heroes step up and go far above and beyond their typical duties this school year.

"Our para-eds and our kitchen staff... they have been working their tails off this year," Superintendent Mark Pickel. "Last week alone, they put together 1,700 meals to go."

During a 'normal' school year, paraeducators can be found assisting in the classroom, often offering one-on-one support and guidance for special needs students. The paraeducator job description, like many, has drastically changed since reopening the school earlier this month.

The paraeducators at the school district have played an instrumental role in the successful meal delivery program that the school has provided since March. Pickel said that the meal deliveries, which required a driver to go door-to-door and drop off breakfasts and lunches for all children at home, slowed down during the summer, but it ramped back up quickly with the start of school and climbed even more so with the partial reopening of the school.

"We have all of our paras in the kitchen," said Food Service Supervisor Susan Wildey. "If they aren't helping make meals, they are out delivering."

Wildey explained that many of the paraeducators have been coming to school hours earlier than a normal workday, and they often stay late to help with tasks like cleaning the kitchen.

"They're supporting the program. The staff is supporting each other so we can support our kiddos, our community," Wildey said. "You know, people like Eleanora (Montgomery), she's in the kitchen almost all day, and she still finds the time to support teachers and work with kids and be their stability and their anchor. Kathy (Schirm) is here at 7 a.m to help hand out milk to students. These ladies are just turning and burning."

Now that school has reopened, the foodservice employees have to prepare meals for half of the school population at home and the students attending in-person instruction. The paraeducators have helped absorb some of the stress handling in-person meals and making sure meals are delivered on time, and students get a hot breakfast and nutritious lunch at school.

"I am so proud and so humbled by the effort that they put in," Wildey said. "They're working their tails off to just make it happen. Not a single one of them came to work for a school district thinking they would be a lunch lady, but I can't thank them enough."

The Waitsburg School District currently employs six paraeducators, all of whom have helped out in the kitchen and meal delivery program, according to Pickel and Wildey.


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