KARNACK — East Texas school district faculty and staff have been working overtime, despite schools being closed by executive order of Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott until May 4, to make sure that students still have material to continue their learning and still have access to meals with no cafeteria for them to now visit each day.
Almost every East Texas school district is offering free breakfast and lunches to students still needing to eat, even though the school cafeteria is closed to them. The free breakfasts and lunches also help out parents who most likely weren’t prepared to suddenly have enough food at home to feed children who are normally in school and visiting the school lunch line.
Many districts allow students to come to certain campuses, such as Marshall High School and Hallsville’s North Elementary School to get free lunches, while some like Karnack and Hallsville ISDs, as well as others, are loading up their school buses and heading out on bus routes to drop off food.
At Marshall ISD, Communities in Schools, a partner organization with the public school, has stepped up to deliver house by house, free breakfasts and hot lunches.
On Tuesday at Karnack ISD, faculty and staff filled the cafeteria as they prepared bags of supplies containing learning materials and packets and free food, which was then either picked up by parents or dropped off via bus routes to students who couldn’t travel to the school.
“We delivered school work and meals to the great majority of our students and we look to move next week to at school pick up for any students in our area,” Karnack ISD Superintendent Amy Dickson said Tuesday. “We’ve taken our buses on Tuesdays and delivered a week’s worth of breakfast and lunches, as well as school work for the week. We also have a pick up time for the very few who don’t ride a bus.”
Dickson said teachers are also thinking outside of the box to keep students engaged in instruction.
“Teachers are using Zoom, Class Dojo, and other ways to communicate daily and weekly with their students,” she said.
At Hallsville ISD, Superintendent Jeff Collum said the district has coordinated a massive effort to create resource pages for parents and students so everyone can be on the same page about what is expected and what can be done.
“While Hallsville ISD is working around the clock to develop instructional materials for our students, we recognize that meeting their basic needs during this crisis has to be done before they are able to concentrate on learning,” Collum said.
Collum said the district’s transportation and food service teamed up to offer 10 remote sites, including the pick up at North Elementary School, to offer food handouts.
“Hallsville ISD is also providing supplementary food provisions to families in this time of need,” he said. “Our first food drive was the week of March 15 and we were able to serve appropriately 175 families.”
The district also held another food drive on Monday.
“We are asking that community donors put together a complete box for us. This will minimize potential exposure to our volunteers. Those families that need assistance should follow the link on the resource page for Hallsville Backpack or email firstname.lastname@example.org,” he said. “A resource page has also been created for families and staff during this time with links out to state and local entities that can offer additional help with things like housing, utilities, and other services.”
At Elysian Fields ISD, spokeswoman Monica Simmons said staff have been hard at work to keep school going despite the buildings being closed.
“Elysian Fields ISD has been extremely busy during the school closure,” she said. “Teachers planned and created at home learning activities for students that students could complete online or through a paper packet. They held Zoom meetings which are virtual meetings with students. On the Zoon meetings, teachers sang with students, read stories to them, reviewed flashcards with them, and talked with them. Faculty on all three campuses wrote notes to students and shared through Facebook — some even created personal videos for them.”
Many of the personal notes to students from their teachers offered words of encouragement and expressed how much the teachers missed seeing their faces in class.
At Waskom ISD, retiring Superintendent Jimmy Cox said this district is doing up breakfast and lunch and even delivery of breakfast and lunches. He said they’ve also provided a 15 day homework packet and they are starting to implement online assignments for students that have internet access.
At Harleton ISD, Superintendent Jay Ratcliff said the district is also doing free breakfast and lunch pickup and delivery for those students identified in need by teachers.
At Jefferson ISD, Superintendent Rob Barnwell said through technology and hard copy packets, the district is continuing to deliver instruction to students to advance learning. They are also providing meals for pickup and delivery.