In the age of staying socially distant, some community members are finding creative ways to come together and offer support.
Locals are putting their energy helping neighbors during these trying times.
Meals for first responders
With the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” directive enacted last week, workers have turned to their homes instead of their offices.
But for some, there is no option but to work on the front lines amid the spread of COVID-19. In South Burlington police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service workers are among those who must report for duty as usual.
Seeing first responders risk their health to help others inspired Jason Barron, owner of North Country Mechanical Insulators, to act.
On Wednesday, March 25, Barron paid for all lunches and dinners served to South Burlington emergency workers at The Pour House.
“Just on a whim on Monday night, I sent Jay [Pour House co-owner] a text and I was like, ‘Hey, you want to do this,’” Barron said. “It just kind of took off from there.”
Lori Germani co-owner of The Pour House said, “They were all really appreciative, so we let them all know that Jason Barron did that.”
Germani said it was helpful to her business, too. Due to COVID-19 she and her husband, Jay Germani, have had to lay-off their entire staff. The duo now works 12- to 13-hour days and has had to adopt a curbside pickup model.
Barron’s offer to treat responders and help boost The Pour House business was a welcome surprise.
“I was crying,” Germani said of hearing Barron’s offer. “He’s a great customer of ours and it just was nice he asked us to do it. I mean, he could ask anybody to do it.”
Barron said his effort was inspired by his parents.
“My mom especially, was always a give-you-the-shirt-off-her-back kind of person,” he said. “So it’s in my nature a little bit.”
Barron’s own business has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I don’t think we’ll get shut down completely,” he said. “We’re definitely going to see a reduction in our workforce.”
He’s hopeful other local businesses will do what they can to help.
“If you can look past the immediate issues that you’re dealing with as a business owner and realize that there are people out there that have it way worse off than you are, than that should be step one in deciding to do something and give back,” he said.
Police Chief Shawn Burke said he is often humbled by how the city shows its support for its police force.
“Mr. Barron’s generous act … is just another reminder of how much community support there is for the police department,” he wrote in an email. “The men and women of the South Burlington Police work very hard to earn this community support, which makes me proud.”
Adapting to online instruction
South Burlington High School English teacher Katie McCabe and special education teacher Dzana Karabegovic didn’t have much time to act.
On Sunday, March 15 Gov. Phil Scott announced that all Vermont pre K-12 schools would be closed by March 18 in an effort to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 spread.
McCabe and Karabegovic had get moving to enable their students’ at-home learning.
“Dzana and I had already planned our book unit and we had all our books separated in stacks,” McCabe said. “I remember coming in that morning [after the governor’s order] and Dzana being like, ‘If the kids don’t show up today, I’m ready to drop the books at their house.’ And I was like, ‘Cool. I’m into that idea.’”
That Wednesday, with school closed, the duo set off to deliver books to students who had not attended on March 16 and 17.
The delivery took longer than either teacher had anticipated.
“That morning, we’re like, ‘Oh, this will be fine. We’ll just drive around for an hour,’” McCabe said. “Then it was like, 2 or 3 p.m., we’re like, ‘Alright, that took some time.’”
The teachers were mindful of using hand sanitizer between drop-offs and left some students’ books outside their doors upon request. Those families they saw at the door were thankful for the delivery.
The students are currently working on a social justice unit and were given books to choose from for reading and assessment.
“Students have been uploading a reflection sheet twice a week on their reading. And they’ve also been participating in online discussion threads that we’ve started for each book,” McCabe said. “It’s been fun watching the kids engage on that [platform].”
The teachers plan to host optional video sessions for students who wish to read aloud together.
Even with all this, remote learning is not ideal.
“This can’t replace what happens in the classroom,” Karabegovic said, adding students miss out on everything from socialization, to one-to-one support from teachers. “Especially for special education services, we just can’t provide services through Zoom or the phone even close to what we do in school.”
But McCabe said she is inspired by the lengths some students have gone to, to continue learning. And, she said, the district has been supportive of both its faculty and students.
The teachers hope their students will reach out with questions and find time outside of schoolwork for activities that make them happy.
“They’re so capable of figuring this out,” Karabegovic said. “There is nothing that they can’t do and there are so many adults that they can reach out to at the school if they are struggling with something.”