When REACH Academy principal Natasha Moore saw the first of 3 pallets of pandemic cleaning and safety supplies delivered to her East Oakland public school last Friday, she said she felt like shouting for joy. The school serves transitional kindergarteners through fifth graders in a ZIP code hard-hit by COVID-19 infections.
REACH Academy and the Oakland Unified School District are one of hundreds of schools, school districts, County Children and Family Commissions (First 5s), and other community-based organizations in 56 of California’s 58 counties now receiving a total of nearly $22 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
“To see the boxes of wipes, industrial wipes, and hand sanitizer, and just reflecting on how vital these supplies are to our school. These are lifesaving,” Moore said. “And to see that our school is a priority, it feels amazing. I’m just really grateful.”
Donations go to organizations that need it most
Kaiser Permanente donated the supplies to SupplyBank.org, a nonprofit that distributes critical supplies to under-resourced people through more than 500 trusted community-based organizations. SupplyBank.org will also distribute the donated supplies in Oregon and Washington.
The Kaiser Permanente donation includes KN95, N95, and cloth face masks, sanitizing wipes, and isolation gowns. The supplies meet regulatory requirements but are no longer preferred for use in medical centers and hospitals.
SupplyBank.org prioritized providing the supplies to organizations serving under-resourced communities.
“The pandemic’s not over, and we don’t know the next forms it will take. But we do know that personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies have played a critical role in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and communities,” said Michelle Gaskill-Hames, senior vice president for Hospital and Health Plan Operations at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “We are pleased to help support our community partners and help ease the burden of purchasing supplies, particularly in under-resourced communities.”
Alleviating costs and addressing equity
Keeping children safe has always been a top priority for schools, but in the era of COVID-19 it’s taken on a new dimension. Following public health guidelines, school districts have implemented pandemic safety protocols requiring expensive PPE and sanitizing equipment and supplies.
“This donation alleviates some of that cost pressure for our schools, and for some schools that have not had ready access to PPE — it will be a gamechanger,” said Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe, who is also a SupplyBank.org board member. “It will also allow schools to focus more resources on instructional materials and other classroom needs.”
Like many schools, REACH Academy students spent much of the pandemic at home, learning remotely, then switched to a hybrid schedule in the spring and fulltime in-person learning this fall. Principal Moore said the experience established that children need schools to be open, not just for learning, but for their social and emotional well-being and overall health.
“We know we can’t fully eradicate COVID-19, but if we have enough supplies to ensure safety, we can keep our schools open,” she said. “These donated supplies really address the notion of access and equity. We need them to serve our students and families in this rich, diverse, and beautiful Oakland community.”