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Zūm update on COVID-19: Serving school districts and cities on the frontline

Fighting for What We Value Most

I am a mom of two beautiful children and am an entrepreneur. My company, Zūm, is 100% focused on children, providing smart mobility for students. And as both a parent and an entrepreneur, I never imagined that schools would shut down for more than a few days for snow or even wildfires. I believed education was literally recession-proof. But COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has changed everything, and has done it in the blink of an eye! We are aware of how challenging this time is for everyone.

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have, to your students and community members in need, Zūm is on the frontlines to make this happen. We were created to deliver precious cargo, safely and reliably. And while we still are providing rides for children and families, we are also extending our services to support school districts’ and cities’ efforts to fight COVID-19; delivery of meals, instructional materials and technology, and transportation for special services. Even though the cargo might be different, we still want to be there for you and do what we do best. 

Just two days ago our school system across the U.S. came to a screeching halt. It started with announcements of closures for a couple of weeks and has now evolved to speculations about closures through summer. I’ve been speaking with our customers, schools, districts, and families all over the U.S., and it’s clear that millions of students and families are impacted by this pandemic in ways we never could have imagined. This is truly a state of emergency for our society and education system, and it will take the collective effort of government agencies, schools, foundations, families and companies to meet all students’ unique learning needs while our schools’ physical locations are shut down and distance learning is put in place. 

The Complexity of School Closure in Numbers

Our school system is designed to serve students from every background, color, and socioeconomic status. As a country, we are committed to “equity and equal access to education” as a fundamental right of every child. But when schools shut down, it impacts millions of kids in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. 

Today in the U.S., over 56 million children attend school. Of these, 30 million children qualify to receive free or low-cost meals, and they rely on these meals as a constant in their lives every day. In addition, the school system supports education for over 7 million students with special needs and 1.5 million students who experience homelessness during the school year. 

Shutting down school sites does not just mean loss of classroom education but also for many students loss of access to guaranteed meals/nutrition, access to school-provided internet and laptops for virtual learning, access to special equipment for students with special needs, and many other challenges. If school closures persist for a few weeks or a few months, you can imagine what a majority of our children will have to go through. 

States, cities and school districts are working round the clock operationalizing efforts to normalize education and minimize the impact of school closure. We recently saw California Governor Gavin Newsom pass SB117 allowing Education Finance protection during COVID19. We have seen districts working to procure distance learning materials, and setting up drive-through pickup centers for student meals. Influential leaders like Facebook COO, Sheryl SandbergStephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, among others are standing up for our children and supporting local schools and food banks. And companies like Zoom and Discord are helping set up virtual classrooms. It is heartening to see these great examples of organic public-private partnerships emerging all over the nation to bridge the gap and avoid disruption in the lives of our students as we fight COVID-19. 

Zūm has always been in the child mobility business, but never before has our mission and focus been more critical. Now more than ever safe delivery of meals, IEP resources, and distance learning materials means the difference between equity and access for some vs. for all students. Unfortunately, this is the case for millions of our children. We know this is where Zūm can step in and do our part.

How Zūm will Support Whole School Communities

Zūm today is working with over 250 School Districts and 10,000 schools across California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and Washington. We have a network of thousands of vetted and qualified drivers with childcare experience. We also have the technology to track and record every single pick up and drop off and monitor transportation services and deliveries in real-time.

Starting this week, Zūm is mobilizing our network of drivers and technology to fill the last-mile gap and deliver the resources all children need and deserve. We are working in partnership with hundreds of schools, districts, local agencies, and foundations to support students and families in the following ways. 

  • Meal delivery to students at home or to designated locations, especially during this period of “social distancing” and growing requirements to “shelter in place.” We will record every delivery to ensure the meal gets to the right student. 
  • Safe delivery of Chromebooks / laptops or any technology resources to support students with distance learning.
  • Pick up / drop off of materials for students with IEPs, such as assistive technology or any resources identified in a student’s IEPs to ensure compliance with IDEA requirements. 
  • Delivery of instructional materials to support all students with distance learning recognizing students’ unique and individual needs  
  • Safe transportation of students (and parents or aides) to therapy sessions, required services, and key meetings to maintain consistency for our most vulnerable student populations.  

Times like these define us as individuals, as organizations, and as a society. At Zūm, we have decided to join together with our community to fight for our students, schools, families, and drivers. To fight to ensure equal access for all students, especially during this period of school closures. To do everything we can to emerge from this pandemic together a stronger community. As Helen Keller said – “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have to your students and community members in need, please contact us here. We are here to help. 

If you have other ideas for how we can collaborate to support your students or amplify existing efforts and impact, please share in the comments below. 

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm