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Schools launch plans for remote learning, childcare and takeout lunch

Hillandale Elementary School food service worker Tammy Elkins displays a decorated to-go lunch that parents can pick up for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Elkins and other cafeteria workers had given out 32 lunches by noon. Hillandale Elementary School food service worker Tammy Elkins displays a decorated to-go lunch that parents can pick up for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Elkins and other cafeteria workers had given out 32 lunches by noon.

Forty-nine hours after they plunged into an all hands on deck planning process, Henderson County public school administrators on Monday rolled out a massive emergency plan to teach children remotely, run daycare centers at 13 schools and feed everyone who needs a meal.

 

The school system's action started within minutes of Gov. Roy Cooper's order at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon to shut down schools for two weeks in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Admitting that he had responded “I don’t know” many more times than he responded with certainty to questions from teachers, Superintendent Bo Caldwell told the School Board in a special called meeting that the schools are moving ahead this week with a Learn from Home program and planning to fill holes in the safety net with home delivery of laptops and food if necessary.
“Our goal is to keep people working right now,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to go ahead and have a majority of our staff work from home. That’s what we’re working on right now is to keep them working but work from home. We’re going to start talking to our principals tomorrow about making that transition. Everyone’s still going to be paid.”
The school system currently is still paying all personnel except bus drivers and part-time tutors.
No one at the moment has an answer to the many questions, including what will happen if the General Assembly extends the school year by weeks or more, how teachers will be paid for work beyond the 215 days spelled out in their contracts, what will happen to state-mandated end-of-grade and end-of-course testing, when schools will hold commencement or whether they will hold the ceremonies at all. For now, the state-ordered shut down is for two weeks but no one knows whether that will be extended.
“I’ve not gotten any guidance,” Caldwell said. “If these days are going to be outside the 215 days they need to tell us to completely close because right now we are not.”
He and Associate Superintendent John Bryant emphasized that the school feeding program will serve everyone who needs a meal, no questions asked. Beginning Tuesday, grab-and-go pickup meals will be available at no cost to children ages 2-18 at 12 school sites. On weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., students can pick up in the vestibule of each school’s main entrance at Atkinson, Clear Creek, Dana, Edneyville, Etowah, Fletcher, Glenn C. Marlow, Hillandale, Mills River, Sugarloaf, Upward elementary schools and Hendersonville Middle Scool. Bruce Drysdale and Hendersonville elementary schools are currently on break, and students in those districts can access the Hendersonville Middle feeding site.

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, the Meals On the Bus mobile feeding site will operate its traditional summer route, stopping at six neighborhoods on the following schedule:
• King Creek: 10:30-10:55 a.m.
• Dodd Meadows: 11:05-11:30 a.m.
• Shorty Collins: 11:40 a.m.-12:05 p.m.
• Leisure Lane: 12:15-12:35 p.m.
• Sugarloaf Apartments: 12:55-1:20 p.m.
• Conner Creek Mobile Home Park: 1:35-2 p.m.
“If you’re in need of a meal, you arrive at one of those sites and say I’ve got three kids, you are going to get three meals. Those are relaxed guidelines (because both North Carolina and Henderson County have declared a state of emergency.) “That is very different than it normally looks. The goal is to feed children and families in need so we are doing so starting tomorrow.”
Families who lack transportation for their child to access these meals should contact their child’s school so HCPS staff can deliver meals to their children.
Individuals who would prefer to drop off food items to our schools may do so during the listed grab-and-go meal times, and volunteers will deliver donations to partner sites. According to IAM and The Storehouse, the current food needs include canned fruit & vegetables, canned chicken, canned tuna, macaroni & cheese, ramen, oatmeal, cereal bars, fruit cups, rice, dry beans, soup, pastas, regular coffee, and instant tea.
The school system also has opened child care centers in the cafeterias of 11 elementary schools and will add the other two on next week. The centers currently are caring for the children of school employees. On Monday, Caldwell notified County Manager Steve Wyatt that the daycare centers will serve “any front-line person that can’t get to work because there’s no school,” including doctors and nurses, other medical personnel and first responders.
“Once again, we are flying in an airplane and we are building it as it goes,” Caldwell said. “This issue is a struggle all the way around. As far as daycare, we’ve got to limit our staffing to our teachers then first responders, for EMS, for those people who have got to be at work to take care of other people.”
This week principals are guiding teachers on the Learn from Home process. Jan King, assistant superintendent for instructional services, described the process. “Some of our folks are very comfortable with it. For some of our folks this is going to be a huge transition for them,” she said. Teachers will be available by email and through Google Chat/Meet during designated hours.