Sanitizing microphones as they went and sitting six feet apart, the USD 475 Board of Education held an emergency meeting Friday.
They heard from volunteer groups who had been helping serve meals to children after schools closed unexpectedly in the hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“This past week, we served 2,352, breakfasts, 2,352 lunches, and approximately 500 dinners at seven locations to children and families in Geary County,” Shannon Rosauer of Live Well Geary County said. “This is an average of about 470 per day. The vast majority of these meals have been provided through generous donations from the United Way, the Geary Community Schools Foundation, the Geary County 4-H Foundation, and many private and individual donors.”
Meals have been served at many locations around the community.
The meals are available to all children age 1 to 18, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Lacee Sell.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a full pay student if you’re free or if you’re reduced,” she said. “The waiver itself stands that all children ages 1 through 18 will be fed. So those guidelines that we have during the school year — those are out the window and this time of crisis and emergency.”
Children must be present at the site to receive a meal, but they’re not required to attend the school where the meal is being distributed from.
The only exceptions to the rule about a child being present are if a parent or guardian can provide documentation that the child has special needs or is being quarantined at home and can’t be present.
Several volunteers, including Rosauer, Wheels of HOPE volunteer Marty Rombold, and United Way Director Nichole Mader spoke during the meeting.
United Way has provided meal kits for children and families, which Mader has asked the community for donations to help with.
Local restaurants have helped provide food for the meals, including Subway, Mcdonalds, and Arby’s, providing hundreds of sandwiches to the district.
The menu also includes items such as milk, juice, fresh fruit and vegetables.
“It’s healthy. It’s nutritious,” Board President Rina Neal said. “I saw it for myself.”
The district heard about what was being done to feed students — many of whom depend on the district for daily nutrition during the school year — after schools were compelled to close. Several outside agencies have taken on the task of feeding students, but soon plan to transfer the whole of that task back to the district.
USD 475 also released this message about food service in the district:
Effective March 23, the District is approved by the State to expand its Grab-n-Go meal operations to Milford Elementary, Grandview Elementary and Sheridan Elementary. The program currently serving out of Junction City Middle School is being re-located to serve out of the Ninth Street Karns building.
The following sites are available for meal distribution:
Early Childhood Development Center
Spring Valley Elementary
Milford Elementary (new)
Grandview Elementary (new)
From JCMS (closed) to Karns Building (new)
Meals are distributed between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at designated locations. Each child will receive a lunch meal for that day plus a sack breakfast for the following morning.
NOTE: The Health Department issued guidance to Central Kitchen that it cannot have more than 10 people in its facility an any given time. This means the need for volunteers is not critical. The paid staff is able to handle the current demand.
The district also discussed e-learning.
According to Superintendent of USD 475 Reginald Eggleston, districts around the state have been tasked with finding creative ways teach children now that face-to-face classes have been canceled for the rest of the year.
“We are working on our plan, in order that we will submit to the state for approval in order to launch our e-learning platform for educating our students,” he said. “That’s going to require some professional development for our teachers, which we’ve already scheduled for next week.”
In the next two weeks, the program is expected to launch. Eggleston said tools were already in place to launch such a program. Teachers who have spotty wifi access may be granted access to buildings. Children who do not have internet at home will have access to mobile hotspots the district can lend them in such emergency situations.
The district has worked to make sure all students have access to their school laptops so they can work from home.
“We definitely want to make sure that we are providing our students with everything we possibly can,” Eggleston said. “So at this present moment, will we are awaiting the State Department to give us the date that all programs need to be submitted for approval.”
Online teaching is expected to start April 1, according to Sell.