A high-tech way to do summer reading.
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Kelly Passek loading books
Credit: Wing

When Covid-19 hit the U.S. shuttering businesses and schools alike, students were abruptly taken from the comfortable routines they knew. Parents suddenly found themselves trying to juggle their own jobs from home and homeschooling their kids. Kids had to accept that music class would be over Zoom and birthday parties were parades of cars for now. It has been a rough few months for everyone. But as the virus is still very much a threat, many summer camps are cancelled as well, and the question of “what now?” is on the minds of parents and teachers alike.

Well, for one county in Virginia, a local middle-school librarian had an answer. Kelly Passek works in Virginia’s Montgomery County School district and she came up with a great idea inspired by some new technology she was utilizing in her personal life. Wing, owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, beat out competitor Amazon’s Prime Air, to be the first drone delivery company to receive an air operator’s certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. They began delivering small packages weighing up to three pounds in Passek’s town of Christiansburg, as well as three other cities abroad. The tech saavy librarian was one of the first in her area to adopt this Jetsons-style method of receiving her meals and household products and she quickly realized that these tiny, flying, electronic couriers could also make a positive impact on her students.

As soon as it was determined that students would finish the school year from home, Passek and other librarians in the district sent books to children’s homes on school buses already making daily rounds to provide district students breakfast and lunch. But the end of the school year brought the end of the book program, and the drones offered an exciting new option. The innovative educator went to the Montgomery County Public Schools' superintendent, Mark Miear, with her idea and he gave her his full support to present it to Wing. In turn Wing declared that the students of this county in Southwest Virginia will be making history as they receive their summer reading stash.

As the Washington Post reported, “Wing’s library book delivery service is available to any of the roughly 600 students in the district who live in the delivery area.” Passek also told them that the students won’t be expected to return the books until school starts again. “I think kids are going to be just thrilled to learn that they are going to be the first in the world to receive a library book by drone,” Passek told the Post.

For Wing, the collaboration with Passek and her posse of book wielding do-gooders was an easy choice, as their Virginia site lead, Keith Heyde explained in a company blog post.

“My mom, also an elementary school librarian, always taught me to appreciate the library and reading at a young age,” Heyde said. “Our system is designed to deliver small packages directly to homes through the air. We’ve always believed that the communities we serve would tell us what they need us to put in those packages, and this is a great example of that.”

Passek will also be handling a lot of the heavy lifting as she will be charged with taking the student’s book orders through Google Form, finding the books on the lists from any of the district’s libraries, packaging them up and dropping off to Wing’s facility for delivery. Operations began last week and are already taking off—pun intended, as marked on Wing’s Facebook page.

We love this program so much and we imagine for a few of these kids, the drones won’t just deliver stories to escape into, but also maybe a newfound curiosity in things like drones and could lead a student to explore an academic path that involves STEM.

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Way to go, Ms. Passek!