School lunches to continue as educators teach from home

Sugar-Salem School District cooks Angie Lewis and Jeanette Schmitt helped provide lunch to district patrons on Thursday. Here they assisted fifth grader Teig Gehmlich and his mom Cadence Gehmlich with lunch.

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The "Grab and Go" lunch program will resume on Tuesday, April 7, and not on Monday, April 6, as previously reported. 

The “Grab and Go” lunch program at the Madison School District will continue next month.

The program was temporarily suspended on Thursday following Gov. Little’s order that everything but essential services be shut down until April 20. Little cited concerns over the COVID-19 virus for ordering a temporary shutdown.

As a result of Little’s order, School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas discontinued the program Wednesday night. Thursday morning, the state clarified that “essential services” included education and meal programs.

“It’s been an interesting thing to stay flexible during turbulent change. This is a very unprecedented time,” Thomas said.

The meals will be offered for free from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., starting on April 7, Monday through Friday at Hibbard, Kennedy, South Fork Elementary Schools and at the Madison Junior High School. As was previously planned, meals won't be provided during the school’s annual spring break scheduled from March 30 to April 3.

“We recognize there is a food insecurity in our community, and we wanted to address that,” Thomas said.

Growling stomachs make it difficult for hungry children to hear what their teachers are trying to tell them via online lessons, he said.

“We want to address the basic needs first and foremost and provide our students with food,” Thomas said. “For a certain segment of our student population, the lunches we serve, are their main meals of the day.”

Thomas doesn’t know how much it will cost the district to feed its youth, but says the state will reimburse for those costs.

The Grab and Go program continues through April 20 by which time Thomas hopes to reopen school. 

“Obviously, the COVID-19 situation is very fluid. If the curve has flattened and the conditions are right, and we get the green light, our target date is April 21,” he said.

For now educators are relying on various internet programs like Zoom to instruct students. Thomas said that online teaching is designed to be content rich and assignment light.

“My directive and requirements for staff is to be sensitive to parents who are really busy,” he said.

In the Sugar-Salem School District, Superintendent Chester Bradshaw reported that the district served lunches on Thursday and Friday. Families may pickup food between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Jr. High School. There will be no food distribution during Spring Break that’s scheduled for April 13 through April 20.

Bradshaw said that national school lunch program rules currently apply, and students pay whatever they normally do. Unlike the Madison School District, Sugar-Salem doesn’t qualify for school-wide free meals. Such programs in neighboring districts are under the “Summer Lunch Program” which Sugar-Salem doesn’t have.

When picking up food, families receive “curbside service” that consists of both a breakfast and a lunch, Bradshaw said.

“It’s what we should do. There’s a number of kids in our community who depend on it,” he said.

Sugar-Salem students are continuing their studies thanks to the internet. Some of the educators remain at the school while others are teaching from home.

“We’ve had a few things to work out. Some teachers were giving too much; some weren’t getting enough. We’ve learned a lot, made some corrections and are improving our service,” he said. “This is 100 percent unprecedented. We’re building airplanes in the sky as we’re flying them.”

Bradshaw says he's thankful for technology that's allowing for the online teaching. 

“What we’ve accomplished in such a short time is nothing short of miraculous. I 100% believe that,” he said.

In the Fremont County School District, Superintendent Byron Stutzman says that the district fed students on Thursday and Friday.

“Truthfully, feeding the kids is essential,” he said.

The district plans to continue feeding kids at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday at Henry’s Fork Elementary School in St. Anthony and Ashton’s Elementary School. During the district’s extended Easter weekend scheduled from Friday, April 10, through Monday April 13, lunch won’t be provided. The district will continue the free meals the following day.

The district also takes a food truck to Teton during the week, Stutzman said.

“They are Fremont County students. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are 1 years of age to 18 – they could be a home schooled student,” he said.

Stutzman says educators have the choice whether to teach from campus or from home. 

The online learning has been a challenge at times, but the district providing such is helping students develop mastery learning, he said.

“We want them to master the skill and the knowledge and to be able to show that. Rather than a high stakes test to measure what we’re doing, we’re measuring what our students are doing by their abilities,” he said.

Thomas summed up all of the superintendents’ beliefs that life will eventually return to normal.

“COVID-19 will level out - I think over time it will. Our hope is to get the students back into the classrooms and into a normal school routine. This has been a most interesting situation,” he said.