December Award Spotlight: Elkhorn Area School

Every day, members of our communities rise to meet unexpected challenges. From children to parents and from caregivers to businesses, we have all been asked to step up and become leaders. We’ve faced and pivoted to adapt and grow through our everchanging world due to unforeseen events that affect our daily lives. No action is too small, and together our impact is large.

Your actions should be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are the foundation of our society, and we stand stronger together. PLTW is proud to celebrate diverse communities and its members who exhibit collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship in service across the nation. As a result, we have created the PLTW Community Celebration Awards to recognize communities that have come together to care for each other in times of need. Join us in celebrating the following community this month!

Elkhorn Area School District stepped up to support their community during the COVID-19 pandemic – and continues to do so. Located in the rural town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, with less than 10,000 residents, the school district serves nearly 3,500 students in grades PreK-12.

The school district has worked to ensure that families have food during these trying times by providing free food service for breakfast and lunch to children and adults in the greater community, whether they lived within the school district or not. School bus drivers – who were no longer transporting students with the school buildings closed – continued to work by delivering bagged breakfasts and lunches to six locations where families could pick up the food. The district served approximately 2,900 meals per week from March to August, and then resumed the program when school started.

“This food service provided a connection with our families during this difficult time,” Elkhorn Area School District Superintendent Jason Tadlock said. “Thanks to the generous donations of many individuals to the Elkhorn Area School District Education Foundation, we were able to provide adults in need throughout the community thousands of meals.”

The school district further stayed connected with families through personal phone calls from the district’s resiliency coordinator. “That phone call is meant to check in on families and provide a variety of levels of support to the family that may be currently in quarantine due to COVID,” Elkhorn Area School District Community Resiliency Outreach Coordinator Senta Holmes said.

Currently, the district is also working to connect students and their families to volunteers throughout the community who can offer assistance to these families.

The district also partnered with local custom home builder Wausau Homes to create Free Little Pantries that were placed around town for community members to donate food items, masks, and hygiene items for those in need. Sixth graders in the PLTW Green Architecture class at Elkhorn Area Middle School participated in the project to create the pantries. In total, six pantries were installed – three within the school district and three in surrounding communities. Local businesses donated time and materials to build the boxes, and community groups continue to work together to keep the pantries stocked.

“As you can see, there is a strong partnership between Elkhorn Area School District and the Elkhorn community that it serves,” Elkhorn Area School District PLTW K-8 Coordinator Eryca Card said. “We have a cultural motto currently in place that speaks to this partnership – #ElkhornStrong.”

Additional pantries are being built, and the district has several additional locations lined up, helping to fill gaps and remedy some food insecurity in the community.