With COVID-19 cases and precautions forcing closures and quarantines on an unprecedented scale, workplaces, municipalities and schools have been scrambling to create viable remote options that serve diverse community needs.
Moorestown Township Public Schools (MTPS) is one of many districts navigating the previously uncharted waters of ensuring its teachers have the tools they need to maintain as much normalcy as possible for students now learning from virtual classrooms at home.
“As you can imagine, we have been pretty busy the past few days and into this new ‘schooling’ process,” said Superintendent Dr. Scott McCartney.
COVID-19, more commonly called the coronavirus, is a flu-like respiratory disease that is now described as a pandemic, forcing much of the worldwide population into isolation to minimize its impact. In an attempt to “flatten the curve,” those whose jobs can be done from home and schoolchildren are encouraged to have minimal contact with others to slow the transmission of the disease to manageable levels that don’t overwhelm the health care system.
Schools have closed well into the spring, as dictated by the state’s March 13 press conferences calling for precautionary measures that include long-term closures. The state mandated that all public, private and parochial schools would close March 16, with an April 17 reevaluation date — which also happens to coincide with the Moorestown district’s last day of spring break.
In addition to demanding the immediate implementation of an emergency plan to facilitate long-distance learning for district students, the anticipated month-long closure creates additional challenges in ensuring that students reliant upon reduced and free lunches don’t go without regular meals.
“Food services are part of our plan,” McCartney said.
He added that about 30 students in the district depend on low- or no-cost lunches, and that they are not going without. Working in tandem with Nutri- Serve, a food-management company that partners with schools throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, MTPS is offering bagged lunches to feed students who qualify for the program without interruption.
“We have pushed out messaging to all of our parents letting them know that food service will continue for any eligible free- or reduced-lunch student,” said McCartney, explaining that since most schools are within walking distance from students’ homes, lunches can be picked up at the front of their own schools.
The bagged lunches will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Monday; those families who have more than one child in the district can pick up all their food at the youngest child’s school.
During the week of March 16, the first week of remote learning, lunches were available for pickup every day, McCartney explained; for every week after that, a week’s worth of food will be available each Monday, at the same charge as a cafeteria lunch: The free lunches remain free, and the reduced lunches are still $.40.
A link on the MTPS website, mtps.com, allows parents and guardians to continue a child’s access to healthy, affordable lunches by pre-ordering from a variety of lunches according to dietary restrictions and preferences.
Pre-ordering is mandatory, and must be done by 10 p.m. on the Sunday preceding each week: As an example, a lunch for the week of March 30 would need to be ordered by 10 p.m. March 29.
The district is tentatively scheduled to reopen Monday, April 20. Caregivers can stay updated about MTSD’s responses to and plans for continuing student education as seamlessly as possible at the district’s dedicated COVID-19 page, mtps.com/covid-19.