Riding with the RangersApr 23, 2020 By Steve Peck
One of the saddest news photo assignments I've had in years came earlier this month when I went to Rendezvous Elementary School in Riverton, where my wife works as a fifth-grade teacher.
Ranger photographers go to the local schools dozens of times a year, because there is such good stuff to photograph. There's always an activity of some sort - a concert, a school play, a party, a book fair, an art activity, a guest speaker, a demonstration, or just kids running around on the playground having fun.
This day was different. Paraprofessionals Linda Drewry and Dana Lynch were working in empty fifth-grade hall. All the lockers were being emptied, cleaned and shut for the year.
Small stacks of books the school intended to keep were placed neatly in front of each locker. One by one, the lockers were shut with a metallic slam.
The smell of chlorine bleach was everywhere.
In the classrooms, the desks were pushed to the center of the floor. Their lids were propped open, the contents emptied, the interiors and exteriors scrubbed.
Incidental chairs were stacked along the edges of the rooms. The floors gleamed. That smell again.
In addition to the paras, the custodial staffs have been hard at work on shutdown duty they normally don't do until June.
On the walls and whiteboards were preparations that had been made on Friday, March 13, for the school week ahead. The teachers had written the word of the day, or circled the date on the calendar with a note about what was coming up.
There were notes about field trips that were being planned, and materials prepared for a coming lesson about Nelson Mandela.
I didn't go to every room, but the ones I did see all shared this theme: School that Friday had been dismissed for the weekend, not for the year.
Even during the summer break from school, a timeline exists. Preparations that are being made are all part of the plan. School starts again on a set date.
At the moment -- this moment -- none of that can be known.
The role of the public school in community life is enormous, embracing far more than classroom education.
I got some decent pictures there that morning, but I hated doing it.
The newsgathering and reporting process for The Ranger is better situated technologically for remote operations than are the functions of some of the businesses suddenly forced to adopt new ways of doing their things off site.
Other than yours truly, we haven't really had people sitting 40 hours a week (many more in my case) in our newsroom for quite a while now.
Staff writer Randy Tucker never works from this office, and never has. He covers his games, shoots his pictures, interviews his people, and sends it all from home electronically -- or, perhaps, from a motel room if he's covering a tournament somewhere.
He visits the office often, but he's never had a desk here.
Clair McFarland, who has blossomed into a first-rate reporter after starting her affiliation with us as a twice- monthly columnist, spends time in the office when she can, but at the moment she's home with four children who aren't in school anymore.
Even before that happened, she probably only spent half of her work week sitting at a desk in the news room.
Katie Roenigk, our newspaper Rock of Gibraltar who has been with us for more than a decade, actually lives in Idaho now.
Her husband got a good job with the state of Idaho, and she moved there with him a few years ago.
Katie came to Riverton once a month or so after she moved away, but now she has a small child of her own, and she and works from her home across the state line.
Technology makes it all possible. And these days, it's more than possible. It's necessary.
I get out and about a lot, usually with my camera taking pictures, and we staff games, concerts, meetings and other events as often as were able.
But through digital cameras, wireless phones and e-mail, we can do a lot that used to require a desk, a typewriter, a car, and a telephone hard-wired to the wall.
Suddenly, a lot of other businesses are having to invent new systems on the fly. Everybody has a cell phone and uses text and e-mail, of course, but these were incidental or ancillary parts of doing business until March.
In our very strange new world - which, incredibly, still is not not even two months old - these technologies and the ways to use them suddenly are becoming central to many more ordinary business office functions than they ever used to be.
For a lot of offices, this is being done on the fly. When the pandemic eases, exactly how far back to "normal" anybody gets will be one of the questions of the age.
Jerry Kintzler, whose nice "Flowers and Things" store has been a downtown neighbor of The Ranger's on the 400 block of East Main Street for a long time, is one of the many local merchants looking for answers during this time of sharply decreased commerce.
For florists, springtime activities such as prom, graduation and weddings just aren't happening this year.
It's a true hardship. A good spring season can make the entire year for these stores.
One specific thing Jerry mentioned to a Ranger staff member is worth telling everybody about.
In a normal year, we now would be observing National Administrative Professionals Week - something that used to be lumped under the title "Secretaries Week."
It was a time when businesses used to recognize their office assistants and administrators with, at the very least, a bouquet of flowers and maybe a congratulatory ad in print.
Neither The Ranger nor the florists are seeing much of that kind of business this strange year, but we still offer this suggestion to employers: Notice those people around your office who keep things humming. They deserve a bit of special recognition.
Around our office, we are proud to mention Kim Draper, our longtime typesetter and public notice advertising clerk who has taken on a bigger plate of office and receptionist duties, Jennifer Long is our most-welcome new bookkeeper who also is learning the ropes of classified advertising.
Claire Manning, who started working for The Ranger at age 12, has expanded her office portfolio during difficult times, and she's training our newest Ranger staffer, Corinna McKee. In Lander, there's not much Mary Kay Baldez doesn't do at the Journal office.
A tip of the pressman's hat to our administrative pros. They are working beyond the normal call of duty, and we're glad to have them riding with the Rangers.