Schools are closed, lunches continue

Hats off to the cafeteria staff at the Austin Area School District as they plan and serve breakfast and lunch during the COVID-19 pandemic. All Pennsylvania schools will remain closed through at least April 6, as ordered by Governor Tom Wolf.

All Pennsylvania schools are closed until at least April 6, an extension to the original order by Governor Tom Wolf, as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In the original order, put out on Friday, March 13, Wolf ordered schools to be closed until March 30. The extended closure was announced on Monday.

When it’s determined that students can return to school, administrators, teachers and other staff will be given two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students would return on the third day.

Local schools are continuing to serve lunches to kids 18 and under.

Jed Hamberger, Oswayo Valley School District superintendent, said the school served more than 180 lunches alone on Monday.

“Lunches are going great. Our number grow each day and staff members are volunteering their time to help prepare and serve lunches,” Hamberger wrote in an email to the Potter Leader-Enterprise.

Only essential staff are still reporting to the school to help prepare and serve lunches, Hamberger said. All buildings were deep cleaned last week and are staying closed down to maintain the cleanliness of the facility, he said.

On the district’s Facebook page, students and community members can find some positive updates from the staff at the school, including videos of teachers and administrators giving the “morning announcements.”

Over at Northern Potter School District, Superintendent Nate Jones reported the same. The district is providing two meals a day to students who live in the district. Meals can be picked up between 11 a.m. and noon at the school, Harrison Valley Fire Department, Genesee Fire Department and the Ulysses Senior Center. On Monday, Jones said the district served a little more than 200 students a day.

Essential staff members are still working to continue preparing meals, perform business operations and to thoroughly clean the entire school, Jones said.

The district sent work packets to students via snail mail. Jones said all of the teachers prepared 15 days of “relevant school work with detailed instructions,” which included review and enrichment activities.

“Teachers have the option of grading a few assignments if students have access to everything they need to complete the assignment,” Jones said. Most of the students in the district have access to the internet; if students have access to the internet but do not have a device, the district has been lending Chromebooks to students, he said.

“I am hoping to get back to ‘normal’ as soon as we can. I want to see students participating in education opportunities and extracurricular activities, including sports and spring concerts and unique events, like prom,” Jones said. He said he and the staff are looking forward to seeing their students.