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The Geary County Health Department has declared, as per orders from the state, that area schools will remain closed through March 27 due to concerns over the rapid spread of coronavirus.

Schools within Unified School District 475 and St. Xavier Catholic School are both included in the order.

USD 475 said Monday it would allow access to its buildings from 8 a.m. until noon and then from 1 until 7 p.m. March 17 and 18 so people can retrieve any belongings they left behind and pick up devices needed for e-learning.

Parents and children need to pick up any devices they might need for e-learning because it’s possible classes will need to take place online going forward this semester, pending orders from the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment.

As of now, what the future holds is largely unknown.

While school is out due to the coronavirus emergency that has struck the state, children are still hungry. Many area students depend on their school lunches and breakfasts for their day-to-day nutrition.

During this time of uncertainty, while school is out and children are unable to have reliable daily meals from their school cafeterias, the community has stepped up and started providing free grab-’n-go meals for children throughout the Junction City/Geary County area.

Free lunches and breakfasts are available to children age 1 through 18 effective March 16.

Free grab and go meals will be available for children ages 1-18 beginning on Monday, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. March 16 through Friday, March 20.

All children are welcome to pick up a meal, but the child in question must be present to receive a meal. Parents and guardians may not pick up meals to deliver to a child.

At this time, meals are available at the Early Childhood Development Center at 1803 Elmdale Ave., Washington Elementary School at 1500 N. Washington St., Seitz Elementary School at 27500 Rifle Range Rd. on Fort Riley, Spring Valley Elementary School at 1601 Hickory Ln., and Junction City Middle School at 700 Wildcat Ln. Meals are also available to community children to be picked up from the 12th Street Community Center parking lot at 1002 W. 12th St., the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library parking lot at 230 W. Seventh St., the Episcopal Church of the Covenant parking lot at 314 N. Adams St., the Grandview Plaza Community Center parking lot at 402 State Ave., Jim Clark —Grant Avenue at 834 Grant Ave., Grant Avenue – Konza Prairie Community Health Center parking lot at 361 Grant Ave., the Highland Baptist Church parking lot at 1407 St. Marys Road, and the Milford City Building parking lot at 201 12th St. in Milford.

According to USD 475 Assistant Superintendent of Schools Lacee Sell, many community members have volunteered to help distribute the meals.

The meals are available to all children, regardless of full pay, reduced, or free status.

Each child will receive a meal for lunch for that day as well as a sack breakfast for the following morning. Those involved ask for patience from the public as this program is developed.

Additionally, USD 475 posted on its Facebook Monday that the schools were expected to be open temporarily March 23.

“We are anticipating schools will be open 23 March. We will utilize the time from 7 p.m. 17 March to 22 March to sanitize the schools,” the post read.

The post included a link through which new students can enroll for the current school year: /www.usd475.org/parent-resources/enrollment/

Both USD 475 and St. Xavier Principal Shawn Augustine said schools would work closely with the Geary County Health Department “to ensure safety for both our school and community.”

“In order to continue learning opportunities while our school is closed, our staff is working together to provide you a list of educational resources, and we are continuing to explore methods in which we can provide instruction should we continue to be closed, per Geary County Health Dept., KSDE guidelines, and the Diocese of Salina,” Augustine said. “We will continue to keep you updated as things continue to rapidly change.”

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