WEWOKA, Okla. (KFOR) - Wewoka Public Schools are taking the care of its students to a new level, providing washers and dryers, as well as showers for kids without running water at home.
"It makes me sick at my stomach," said Superintendent Dr. Shellie Gammill of the thought of kids going hungry at home.
She said more than 75% of students are already on the free or reduced lunch program at the school. The district has been sending home backpacks full of food with the kids for the weekend for a while now. This year the district is expanding its food pantry program with the help of community donations.
But she said teacher shave noticed other things keeping children out of class. Part of the 650 student population doesn't have access to running water at home, preventing them from properly showering or washing their clothes.
"Last week we had an issue with a student who told that they didn't have water and any way to wash their clothes," Dr. Gammill said, "and they had worn the same thing for multiple days."
Recent graduate Makayla Velasquez and senior Gavin Weatherly both work closely and discreetly with any students who need a little help.
"We`ll give them stuff like that so they don`t get made fun of or bullied," Velasquez said. "If they want to come to us about clothes and showers, then we don`t tell nobody, because that`s their business."
Already one teacher at the school has picked up on some students who need help cleaning clothes and has taken on the job herself. But the work will be made easier now for her, Velasquez, and Weatherly, now that the district purchased two washing machines and dryers. It also started running hot water through an unused shower. All of it will be available for students who need it to be healthy, comfortable, and confident.
For the district, this will help improve a chronic absenteeism issue seen at many schools across the state.
"We`re on the school improvement list and the truth is, until you meet their basic needs, their test scores are not going to improve," Dr. Gammill said.
But it will also address the fact that what many consider basic necessities are a luxury in places like Wewoka.
"The opportunities to come and shower and get their clothes washed and just be able to get food, that will help a lot," Weatherly said.
The school is seeking donations of things like shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, feminine hygiene products, clothing, and food.
Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the superintendent's office at 1211 S Okfuskee, Wewoka, Ok 74884, and the school can be contacted at (405) 257-5475.