This Friday, May 8th, we set a new record! I delivered groceries to 36 kids in 7 nearby northside neighborhoods—46 bags of food and 32 gallons of milk. This brings our total number of deliveries to 79 kids within three weeks! My arms are still sore, and I’m not sure if it’s from carrying grocery bags or waving back at people from their windows.
Since quarantine began, these weekly grocery deliveries have been my only ventures outside the house. I love being able to get back into the community, and I feel the most at-home when reconnecting with neighbors and meeting new friends—like Bandit the Dachshund! Bandit politely welcomes strangers (as long as they’re carrying his human’s groceries), and guards the food with fierce bravery. Good boy, Bandit!
As usual, BIG thanks to the dedicated Saint Louis Public Schools staff and Friendly Temple Church volunteers on the front lines distributing food at Langston Middle School!
I believe I’ve discovered the max grocery capacity for my car, but this Friday May 15th, I’m heading back out to pick up/drop off groceries for more students and families. Please text me at 314.467.0127 if you or a family you know need a food delivery (*first come, first served*). I will be in the Wells/Goodfellow, St. Louis area but can travel anywhere northside/westside St. Louis City for porch drop-off.
SLPS has 36 schools where any family may pick up one week’s worth of free groceries–no matter whether or not their children are enrolled in SLPS. Grocery bags include dairy, bread, fresh produce, proteins, and snacks. Every Friday, 8am-12pm.
When class was dismissed on Friday, March 13, SLPS students were ready for Spring Break, but they didn’t expect so much bonus vacation time! In the days since, the St. Louis community and people across the world have endured increasing disruptions to daily life as more news unfolds surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
On March 16th, the St. Louis Board of Education held an emergency meeting via conference call, in compliance with Missouri Sunshine Law, and the break was extended until April 3rd, 2020. SLPS and other St. Louis schools didn’t miss a beat in ensuring food access during uncertain times, providing free meals for students and $1 meals for adults at sites across the city. By March 19th, a community partner stepped up to cover the cost of adult meals, so that all families are now able to obtain no-cost food provisions, no questions asked, at any school site across the City.
As of 6:00pm today, a Stay-At-Home Order took effect for the City of St. Louis, as announced by Mayor Lyda Krewson this weekend. This stay-at-home order directs all St. Louisans to remain in their places of residence unless obtaining necessary medical/grocery/veterinary supplies, conducting critical government business, or reporting to a job considered an essential service. If you must go outside or tend to necessary errands, please maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from your fellow humans and animals.
Schools will now remain closed until April 22nd, 2020.
The risks and disruptions to our regular routines are very real. Below are some resources to help our community maintain stability and access to basic needs during quarantine. And maybe we can even have a little fun while we’re in forced proximity with our loved ones. As for me, I’ve just been catching up on school board work, stacking objects on my cat, Major, and tomorrow I’m having a virtual breakfast with otters!
If you’re worried, have any questions, or if you just get bored, feel free to send me a text or give me a call at 314.437.3111. Email me at Natalie.Vowell@slps.org.
Stay home. Stay safe, smart, smiling, and always learning!
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL SUPPORT HOTLINE The District has established a direct hotline for students and parents requiring social and emotional support. The hotline can be accessed by calling 314-345-6900 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PAY FOR SLPS STAFF IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE The St. Louis Board of Education immeasurably appreciates our teachers, administrators, and staff who have been working round the clock to keep our schools and students safe.
FREE MEALS FOR STUDENTS AND ADULTS Meals are available free of charge for all St. Louis families, regardless of whether their children attend public, private, or charter schools. Here is a map of locations. These meals are “grab-and-go,” meaning students cannot stay at the school to eat them because of social distancing guidelines issued by state and local health agencies. For details on meal pickup and schedules, please visit https://www.slps.org/meals. UPDATE: in response to community requests, we have now added Oak Hill and Lexington Elementary as distribution sites.
MAP TESTS CANCELLED FOR 2019/2020 SCHOOL YEAR Missouri has cancelled required statewide assessments for the remainder the school year. This includes Grade-Level, End-of-Course and Alternate assessments. The Offices of College and Career Readiness (OCCR) and Quality Schools (OQS) will share more information and updates as soon as they become available. Refer to the DESE-related COVID-19 webpage for links to useful information. If you have questions about assessment, send them to email@example.com or call DESE at 573-751-3545.
METRO BUS FARE WAIVED Passengers may travel on MetroBus and Call-A-Ride free of charge through March 31. (Fares will not be waived for MetroLink travel.) Customers using all other fare types can also refrain from using the farebox. This policy will be effective beginning March 21 and continuing through March 31. All MetroBus passengers will be required to board and exit buses using the rear doors, except in cases where passengers require an accessible entrance at the front of the bus. Buses are running less frequently, so be sure to check routes and schedules.
EXPANDED/EXTENDED FOOD STAMP AID The Department of Social Services Family Support Division will extend Food Stamp/SNAP certification periods by six months for those re-certifications coming due in March, April and May. This action prevents Food Stamp benefits from ending during the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for food assistance are being accepted online. More information and instructions available in this document.
ST. LOUIS QUARANTINE SUPPORT St. Louis volunteers have formed a new group, St. Louis Quarantine Support, and are coming together to take care of our at-risk population by helping out with every day errands like delivering groceries, picking up prescriptions, providing rides to the doctor, or walking dogs. Request assistance from with this short form. You can also volunteer your time or donate a few dollars if you’re able. Please note, this is a group of private citizens, not officially organized or endorsed by the St. Louis Board of Education or the City of St. Louis.
SUPPORT FOR STAFF Staff who are in need of social or emotional support are encouraged to access the free, confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through United HealthCare via phone, 1-800-622-7276, or online: www.liveandworkwell.com. Additionally, UHC provides 24/7 phone or video virtual visits with a doctor ($0 co-pay): www.uhc.com/virtualvisits.
UPS/FEDEX NOT REQUIRING SIGNATURES UPS and FedEx both have decided to suspend signatures on packages to minimize contamination and personal contact. You can manage your deliveries online
AMAZON FREE STREAMING OF KIDS’ CONTENT You don’t need to be an Amazon Prime member to access family friendly movies and television. Customers only need to log in or create a free Amazon.com account to enjoy free family programming.
SLPS OFFERS “KEEP ON LEARNING” While Spring Break is rejuvenating for our young scholars, this unexpected extended school closure period may disrupt the planned flow of learning. SLPS has created “Keep On Learning”, a resource for students and families while our kids are out of school. Visit www.slps.org/keeponlearning for interesting age-appropriate educational materials students might not have a chance to experience in the classroom.
DIGITAL SERVICES FROM ST. LOUIS PUBLIC LIBRARY Your neighborhood library branch may be closed, but you can still access a wealth of information and entertainment without leaving the house. The St. Louis Public Library offers eBooks, audiobooks, and online learning opportunities for all ages. The Library also live streams story time via their Facebook page. All St. Louis Public Library services are free of charge for any St. Louis Public Library cardholder. If you don’t have a library card, you can obtain an eCard online, at no cost.
TAKE A VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOUR Many museums are offering virtual tours online. Here’s a list of world-class museums you can visit without getting off the couch.
ST. LOUIS AQUARIUM EXPLORATION The St. Louis Aquarium is hosting live sessions of its exhibits via their Facebook page.
FREE INTERNET We understand not everyone has access to internet service or WiFi hotspots. Any parent of a child who does not have access to the internet can contact Charter/Spectrum at 844-488-8395 to receive free internet access for 60 days. This offer is for households with K-12 or college students.
On April 5th, 2016, St. Louis citizens will have the chance to vote on a property tax increase. The tax increase was proposed by the St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board, and filed with the Board of Election Commissioners—without consulting the Elected School Board members. As of today, the full ballot language was still unavailable from the Board of Elections website, and a phone call confirmed that the election was “too far away” for any further information to be made public. (UPDATE: Full ballot language is still not published on the Board of Elections website, but IT CAN BE READ HERE. It will be called “Proposition 1” and is going to ballot as-is, with NO clause to account for low income homeowners or low-value properties.)
As an across-the-board property tax increase, this will backfire. It will only serve to push low income homeowners into the danger zone of tax auction forfeiture, and further devour our already-dwindling population. The Post-Dispatch article states, “the 75-cent tax increase would raise property taxes an additional $142.50 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home”. While $142 may be a mere inconvenience to St. Louis’s more affluent homeowners, amounts as small as $25 are already dire straits for the poor. Current property tax rates are already forcing homeowners in our poorest neighborhoods—those who rely most on our public schools—into delinquency, and they face the very real risk of losing their homes. Low income families (or houses appraised at under $35,000) should be exempt from this real estate tax increase. Otherwise, what seems like a reasonable goal will be fraught with unintended consequences.
Numerous studies have shown that kids with stable home environments—those who don’t move around from house to house or school to school—perform higher not just on standardized tests, but are overall better learners in class. Education is important, but not when comes at the cost of a family losing their fully-paid-off home and becoming perpetually transient.
The SAB is out of control and out of touch. Please join me in asking the Special Administrative Board to reconsider this by calling them 314-345-2230. If they don’t listen, please vote NO on Proposition 1 when you cast your ballot on April 5th. Voting NO does not mean you don’t support education. Voting NO means you oppose perpetuating cyclical poverty in St. Louis.