Pandemic inspires students, adults to help out

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for everyone. Many lives have been lost, while others have been changed forever. But through it all, some folks in Grays Harbor County have managed to make the best of an unforeseen situation and help others in the process.

Two such stories were documented within the last week in The Daily World by staff writer Matthew N. Wells, who showed how local school district custodians were coping in the face of the pandemic and what children were doing in South Beach to help out.

The story of Aberdeen School District custodians Glenn Raney and Keith Reid was detailed in the Jan. 29 edition of The Daily World. The two men have faced a number of challenges in order to keep school children and staff healthy and safe in the pandemic era.

Both men work at Stevens Elementary School, as well as Miller Junior High School.

“Our job (during the pandemic) has increased in the amount of work we do,” Reid said. “That was a given. It gave us another 25 to 30% (more) workload, on top of what we were doing already. And trying to keep up, it’s hard.”

One of the more difficult aspects of their jobs as custodians is the cleaning required to keep up with the number of children who attend the school in the pandemic era.

“You’ve got 23-30 desks in each classroom, depending on what building you’re working in, and you’ve got to try to work a system to get to it all. Some nights you can’t get to it all because there are other things you’ve got to do so you can open up the next morning,” Reid said.

Besides the extra work, the custodians said it’s tough to see the students engage each other during the course of a day because they are always being told what to do.

“You can’t hug your best friend, or speak to them without the mask on,” said Rainey about the interactions between students.

While we understand the difficulties associated with their jobs, we are also deeply appreciative of the work Raney and Reid are doing for the children of the community. And we are not the only ones who feel that way.

“(They’ve) really stepped up the last couple of years to ensure the health and safety of students and staff,” said Stevens Elementary School Principal Jamie Stotler, who also credited their colleague Bill Ratie for all the extra work put in during the pandemic era.

Also stepping up during the pandemic are a group of students from Ocosta Junior-Senior High School in South Beach, who came up with an idea to create a mobile safety event trailer. The custom-made trailer, which is modeled after a traditional plank house, was designed to reduce risks at Tokeland’s outdoor gatherings and events.

The safety trailer, complete with wheels, is used to store and distribute face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, thermometers, stickers to mark safe-distancing, containment fencing for crowd control and safe practice signage. The trailer is also used as storage for hand-washing stations used at events.

“We jumped on the opportunity to make the Ocosta students’ idea of the event safety trailer a reality,” said Tokeland-North Cove Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Prosser in the Feb. 2 edition of The Daily World, whose group put together the proposal to help pay for the trailers.

All told, Ocosta students have built three safety trailers with the other two being for the Shoalwater Bay Tribe and their events and one for the Associated Student Body of Ocosta Junior-Senior High School, which will be used as a cleaning station, as well as for concessions and merchandise at school events.

Senior students Dylan Todd and Cyrus Cardreon, as well as junior students Lidia Morales and Gage Grisby did the work themselves on the trailers, which drew high praise from Ocosta art teacher Don Watkins, who oversaw the project.

“They did an excellent job of taking direction and learning the technique of carpentry. Everything was within one-sixteenth of an inch. (They were) really accurate,” Watkins said.

An excellent job, indeed.