Whether their students were directly affected by this week’s unprecedented deluge, Richland County schools are working to assure their students are cared for during this break from the classroom.
Richland 1 and Richland 2 offered free meals to all children – and some adults – Thursday and Friday. Nearly 1,000 lunches and 175 breakfasts were served at 10 Richland 2 schools Thursday, district officials said.
Both school districts have canceled classes all week due to the weekend flooding and damage that devastated many households, left thousands without clean drinking water and cut off numerous roads.
Richland 2 officials hope to reopen schools Monday, though an official decision has not been made. Richland 1 also has not decided when to reopen.
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Without the students in class this week, school officials still felt responsible for their well-being.
“It’s important that they’re taken care of,” said Sanders Middle principal Andrenna Smith, who, along with other staffers from around the district, volunteered at Richland 1’s Carver-Lyon Elementary to serve lunch Thursday. “Some of their parents are at work. So some of the children have come with their older brothers and sisters. We don’t know if there’s food at home or not.
“We need to make sure that they’re taken care of. These are our children,” she said.
Sharel Leonard brought her two daughters, 10-year-old Soraya Mondesir and 3-year-old Jaiden Seabrooks, and two cousins, 11-year-old Tylia White and 4-year-old Iyana Weeks, to eat lunch at Carver-Lyon before a trip to Riverbanks Zoo. The kids said they weren’t ready to go back to school, but Leonard said she was glad to have a place to go to get them out of the house.
More than 135 children were served lunch at Carver-Lyon, which also fed meals to adults.
At Richland 1’s Hyatt Park Elementary, a steady stream of children came through at lunchtime, with at least a couple dozen eating at any one time in the school cafeteria.
“This is a blessing,” said Rhonda Brown, whose 11-year-old son, William, ate pizza, salad and vegetables at Hyatt Park.
“I can do without lunch,” Brown said. “If I eat something for breakfast, I’ll be fine. But my child is a whole different story. Especially when he’s in the sixth grade, you know they eat like a horse if you let them.”
Hyatt Park also sent students home with bags of bottled water and packs of reading and math activities “to make sure education can continue,” principal Andrea Adams said.
Dent Middle in Richland 2 had set up a makeshift food and clothing pantry with volunteers hand delivering supplies to the nearby community.
Teachers and staff at South Kilbourne Elementary in Richland 1 had a similar mission this week to care for their students’ physical and educational needs.
In addition to offering free lunches Thursday and Friday, the Rosewood neighborhood school spent Wednesday organizing and delivering donations of water, food, clothing, school supplies and learning packets to students, many of whom live in the low-lying area near South Beltline Boulevard along Gills Creek.
“It’s hard when you’re in school and you’re used to doing so much for students, and it’s hard just sitting at home,” said South Kilbourne principal Linda Norton. “I don’t think there’s one of us in this entire state or nation that has not been affected by what has occurred.”
While delivering grocery bags full of supplies and school lessons to the Columbia Garden Apartments Wednesday, Norton and South Kilbourne teachers were greeted by students.
Six-year-old Terrince Tillman hugged his first-grade teacher, Blair Baxter, and told her he missed learning at school.
Tillman’s family’s apartment was spared from any water damage but, like thousands of others, they were still without clean water. “It feels good,” said Terrince’s mother, Anna Tillman, of the teachers’ concern. “They’re letting us know they care.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Meals will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at these Richland 1 schools:
- Burnside Elementary School, 7300 Patterson Road, Columbia 29209
- Carver-Lyon Elementary School, 2100 Waverly St., Columbia 29204
- Hyatt Park Elementary School, 4200 Main St., Columbia 29203
- South Kilbourne Elementary School, 1400 South Kilbourne Road, Columbia 29205
- John P. Thomas Elementary School, 6001 Weston Ave., Columbia 29203
Meals will be served from 8 to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at these Richland 2 schools:
- Bethel-Hanberry Elementary, 125 Boney Road, Blythewood 29016
- Bridge Creek Elementary, 121 Bombing Range Road, Elgin 29045
- Conder Elementary, 8040 Hunt Club Road, Columbia 29223
- Dent Middle, 2721 Decker Blvd., Columbia 29206
- Forest Lake Elementary, 6801 Brookfield Road, Columbia 29206
- Keels Elementary, 7500 Springcrest Drive, Columbia 29223
- Killian Elementary, 2621 Clemson Road, Columbia 29229
- Sandlapper Elementary, 1001 Longtown Road, Columbia 29229
- Summit Parkway Middle, 200 Summit Parkway, Columbia 29229
- Windsor Elementary, 9800 Dunbarton Drive, Columbia 29223