BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho (KIDK/KXPI) - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives. One of the big impacts is our students spending their class time online, but not everyone has the ability to connect. So now what? One local school district found a solution. KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz wanted to find out what it is and to Pay It Forward.
The school year in southeastern Idaho hit the pause button about three weeks ago thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it started up again after spring break, all districts moved to online instruction in some degree. But with schools shut down, this brought on two major concerns.
One - how to feed young students who might be getting their only meals from their school?
Dr. Scott Woolstenhulme, superintendent of Bonneville School District #93 said their meal program has great support and flexibility from the federal level.
"We're delivering over 5,000 meals a day right now to students," said Woolstenhulme.
Woolstenhulme said the students are picking-up the meals at schools or the meals are being bussed into their neighborhoods.
The other major concern is Internet connectivity when it comes to classes online.
"Uh, there is no question that we knew that not every family in our community would be able to connect to the Internet and get those resources. So I started thinking about how do we bridge that gap for families?" said Woolstenhulme.
He had many families reaching out wondering how they could help students in need and still keep their social distancing? So with a little inspiration, as Woolstenhulme put it, he and the administration came up with the idea of an Internet connectivity fund.
The business director said, 'we have people who want to donate for Internet connectivity for kids in need right now. Tell me when you can get a form ready to go,'" said Shelley Andrus, the executive director of the Bonneville Education Foundation. She said it only took about 20 minutes to turn it on because the district has been migrating toward online for many years.
"I knew that this is a way that through the generosity of our community that we could help to bridge that gap for students," said Woolstenhulme.
But the wave of compassion actually started well before it reached the community. It began in the very classrooms where students are taught.
"To me, it just means a lot, because I know we're all facing uncertain times and so for people to reach into their pockets and say, 'You know what, I know we're not certain what's going to happen in our family, in our community, but we want to make sure we're helping those that we know need help right now,' is certainly touching," said Woolstenhulme with a long emotional pause. "Some of those donations have come from our teachers right here in the district as they looked out and know particular individual students in their classrooms that they knew they couldn't reach unless they had connectivity, then our teachers have donated from their own wallets and pocketbooks to reach out and help those kids and that's meant a lot to me," added Woolstenhulme.
With that, it's the perfect time to Pay It Forward, but we need to step outside to keep our distance.
"We've got our hand sanitizer and also gloves so that we make sure that we do this right," said Kory Carling, outside in his car getting ready for the hand-off at the front door to the district offices.
"I think that's something out there for you," said Kunz standing in the lobby area, pointing to the front glass doors.
"Is it?" questioned Woolstenhulme.
"I'm not sure," replied Kunz.
"How are you?" said Woolstenhulme, opening the door and talking to a man who had placed balloons and a bag of jelly beans by the door with an envelope.
"Good. Scott, how are you?" said the man.
"I'm great. How are you doing?" said Woolstenhulme.
"I'm Kory (Carling) with Mountain America Credit Union," the man replied.
"Yeah, we've met before," said Woolstenhulme.
"Yeah, and this troubling time and this crazy epidemic that is going on and we would like to Pay It Forward. So we've brought with us today $500 in cash," said Carling, referring to the envelope of cash on the ground with the balloons and jelly beans.
"Oh my heavens," replied Woolstenhulme.
"That I know you can use to your new program of your Internet connectibility program that you guys just started. And so we just wanted to say 'thank you' for all the hard work that you guys have done," said Carling.
"Thank you so much. That means so much and that will help a lot of our families so thank you Kory," said Woolstenhulme.
"Yeah, so on behalf of us and many others, we just liked to say 'thank you' for your hard work and dedication," said Carling.
"Thank you Kory," said Woolstenhulme.
"You betcha," said Carling.
"That means a lot for our kids, so thank you," said Woolstenhulme.
"You're welcome to pick it up. It's been sanitized good," said Carling laughing.
"Uh, it's a crazy time isn't it?" said Woolstenhulme, laughing in reply.
"It is," said Carling.
"Thanks Kory," said Woolstenhulme.
"You betcha," replied Carling.
Many of the area donations have come with tribute messages. If you would like to donate to the Internet Connectivity Fund for students in need in Bonneville District 93, you can do that through the Bonneville Education Foundation.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.