I want to share the preliminary steps we have taken to prepare for how we are going to support our students and families during this next week. We will work together to serve meals and offer educational guidance – and in some cases provide childcare support for our own employees and healthcare workers and first responders – as much as we are able to do.
Steps we have taken:
Developing Educational Opportunities
• We have asked most of our certified and classified employees to stay home for Monday and Tuesday because it will take some time to convert a K-12 educational system dependent on large groups of children receiving in-person instruction to a delivered system of self-directed learning opportunities that occur in the home. They are two very different structures.
• We also have to consider our most vulnerable children who have very specific needs – and are often unique just to them.
• Our administrators and some key building employees will be here Monday and Tuesday to help us engage in this planning and further preparations.
• All certified and classified employees will return to our school buildings Wednesday so we can engage in lesson planning, collaboration, and other logistical planning.
• Learning opportunities should be delivered the following Monday – March 23rd. How that happens is not yet clear – but will be! Stay tuned.
Free Meals to Students
• Last evening, we sent a message out about our plan to provide free meals to our children during this closure – starting this Monday. Rob Dunn, our Food Service Director at Meridian has prepared a program where students aged 0-18 may receive free breakfast and lunch – regardless of whether they are a Meridian Student or not.
• The plan for this Monday and Tuesday is to have bagged lunches and breakfasts ready to be picked up from 11:30-12:30 at Meridian Middle School cafeteria. This way only one trip is required for two meals. Please keep in mind regulations do require the student must be present to receive a meal.
• While this is happening Monday and Tuesday we will be looking at a system to deliver meals to central locations while still allowing for pick-up at the middle school from Wednesday and beyond because we know a significant amount of our families do not have access to transportation. We will also be messaging out details so we know where we will need to ensure deliveries.
• The Governor and health care officials have consistently conveyed a desire for schools to provide child care support for health care workers and emergency first responders. We are currently looking to identify who in our student population belongs to these households.
• We also have 200 employees, many of who also will require assistance with child care. We are looking at how that could happen while still exercising the noted social distancing protocols – and likely limit access to these two categories. More information will become clear as we move further along. Stay tuned on this piece.
Meridian School District employees will not only be serving these functions. They will also be involved in supporting educational goals, some aspects of professional development and communication with families – although to what degree and frequency will still need to be determined. As noted above, our educational context has changed. School systems are complex. There is much to consider. I want to assure you your children and the Meridian community are at the center of our decisions – and our ability to provide equitable access and support.
At this point, just about 24 hours after the governor’s proclamation to close all state schools, there are more questions I don’t know the answers to than I do. I want to take a moment to thank the amazing people in our district. Our teachers, staff, support personnel, leaders and central office staff all operate with a foundational premise that our students’ needs drive our decisions – and that is an amazing perspective from which to operate. There have been multiple offers of support and help…without even knowing what that may mean. What I do know is our employees will shine brightly as we navigate this new challenge.
My last thought for all of you is this event – whatever it may end up being called – is much bigger than anyone of us. Our charge is to work together, exercise grace, be flexible, and find the best of each day to make the next better. Our children are watching us. We all share the responsibility to help them respond to this uncharted territory – a very real-life skill. Finally, our Meridian Community has been superb in their calls, messages, and offers of support. On behalf of the entire district, it is all appreciated – thank you! There is nowhere I would rather be!
I hope the temperature rises and you are able to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Dr. James Everett