Ozark County schools provide food for students during closures
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ozark County schools extended last week’s spring break or adjusted their schedules just in time for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s statewide social distancing order, which closed Missouri schools until at least April 6. The order was issued Saturday during the governor’s press conference.
Because of the unusual and sudden change in circumstances, many parents found themselves unprepared for having their children home for an extended time. In some families, students may rely on their schools to provide one or more meals a day, say several school officials.
Wishing to ease the hardships these students and their families face, all Ozark County school districts have instituted programs facilitating pick-up or delivery of meals and homework.
Proms, texting and extracurricular activities
All proms and extracurricular activities have been canceled or will be rescheduled, if possible, districts say. On March 19, Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announced that, effectively immediately, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “will be cancelling statewide required assessments for this school year.”
Bakersfield superintendent Dr. Amy Britt said student meals will be delivered via bus routes from noon until 2 p.m. Thursday, March 26. The first meal delivery was Tuesday. If parents or another person are unable to meet the bus, they should call 417-284-7333 ext. 401, and leave a message. Pick-up will also be available at the elementary car-rider pick-up line between 1 and 2 p.m.
“We will provide meals until school is back in session whether that be this school year or summer school,” said Britt. “We will…monitor the participation and see if we need to alter the schedule, maybe delivering only once a week or allowing for different or more pickup times. We care about our students. We know our families are having hard times right now and we want to do what we can to ease that burden.”
She acknowledged “the toll that these difficult times have on students, not only with their academics but mentally as well. Anything we can do to provide normalcy is a good thing for kids.”
Instructional review packets for Bakersfield students were available Tuesday, March 24. Any packets that weren’t picked up Tuesday will be mailed to the students. The packets “are intended to keep kids engaged in learning with concepts fresh in their minds,” Britt said in an online post. All packets are due when students return to school.
“At this point I am hopeful that we will have school again this semester,” said Britt. “But I fully realize this may not happen. Until we get official direction from the state, we will continue to send home packets. The amount of instruction that we provide and the number of packets will be determined by how long we are not in school and whether we are allowed to have summer school…
“Our goal is to keep kids fresh with the concepts they have as of now so we don’t have to spend so much time reviewing what they’ve learned this year…because we will already be a quarter behind,” she said. “However, we will be in the same boat with everyone – not only in our state but in our nation. Kids are resilient and we will do what we can to provide the skills they need to be successful in the next grade level.”
The Dora School District is providing two breakfasts and two lunches per child on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week for any Dora student age 18 and younger. The meals can be picked up between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on those days in the normal parent pickup-routine by the cafeteria doors.
“When you arrive … tell the teacher how many packages you need, and they will hand them to you through a window. Please remember we need to keep things moving, so this is not the time for socialization. Some of the items will need to be refrigerated so please check your bags when you get them,” the school said in a post instructing parents on the pick-up procedure.
Parents are asked to visit dora.org and complete the parent survey to provide the information asking how many meals are needed and whether they can be picked up or need to be delivered. Delivery is also between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
In a Facebook post, Dora School said it “passed out 512 meals to 128 kids” Monday, March 23. Parents were able to also pick up student review packets while picking up meals. The remainder of the review packets were to be mailed Tuesday, March 24.
The Gainesville School District offers meals for any student age 18 and younger whose family responded to a recent online survey asking who needed the supplemental food during the school’s extended closure. The food is offer through at least Friday, April 3. Meals will be provided two ways:
Parents, guardians or students can pick up meals at the high school from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Meals will also be delivered to those who indicated that need on the recent school survey. The delivery will follow the summer school bus routes.
Families should contact the high school at 679-4200 or the elementary school at 679-4416 for more information about picking up or having food delivered on the summer school bus routes. GHS principal Justin Gilmore said additional information was being sent out to families by email Tuesday afternoon, and it would also be posted at gainesvillebulldogs.com and on the Gainesville R-V Schools Facebook page. Bus drivers will also be in contact with families who have asked to participate to advise them of delivery times.
Also, the school is making arrangements to provide resource packets to all students either by pick-up or bus-route delivery for those particiating in the food program. For more information, contact the schools at the numbers provided above.
School libraries will be open during the school’s extended closure. However, only 10 people will be allowed in the library at a time, in accordance with the governor’s social-distancing order.
“The COVID-19 situation we are currently dealing with is very fluid, and the Gainesville District is doing its best to adapt accordingly,” said Gilmore. “Serving Gainesville students is what we do,” he said. “We want to be helpful, and providing food and instructional resources during this extended break seems appropriate.
“Also, providing food and instruction allows us to put eyes on kids to ensure they are safe and healthy. Thank you to everyone who has made these services possible,” he said.
The Lutie School District is also supplying breakfasts and lunches to students. Parents must call the school between 9 and 11:30 a.m. on Mondays to sign up for meals for that week. Meals can be picked up between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the kitchen window.
Superintendent Scot Young said a toy, toothbrush and toothpaste were added to each food bag.
Also, instructional packets were sent home with the students recently. “Lutie teachers began preparing these a few weeks ago and will continue to prepare these and make contact with their students,” said Young. “We will also offer summer school…I can’t imagine any school not wanting to continue to provide instruction.
“We will provide meals the rest of the school year and through the summer school …These are our children. I wish we could do more,” he said.
Mark Twain Elementary School, on Highway 160 west of the Ozark-Taney County line in Reuter, is providing food bundles for students whose families request them, said superintendent Joe Donley. Families will be contacted for pick-up or delivery times of food and schoolwork packets, he said.
Thornfield superintendent Melissa Campbell said the district will continue its weekly backpack program providing extra food to those families already participating in the program – and any additional families that let her know help is needed. For now, Campbell is assembling the backpack food assortments and delivering them herself to the participating families.
She expressed thanks to Century Bank of the Ozarks, Ozark Food Harvest and other organizations who support the program.
“Because we’re such a small school, we know our families well, and we keep communication open with them, she said. “In times as uncertain as we are in, we must all pull together to ensure our students have access to everyday needs to keep some normalcy in their lives. I’m proud to see schools in our area searching to find a way to do this. All districts are different, but the bottom line is we all care.
No work packets will be sent home to students, Campbell said, but the school’s Facebook page offers suggestions for parents who wish to give their children schoolwork during the extended break. Parents may also contact Campbell on Facebook or by phone.