Student meals: Area schools begin handouts as kids start extended time at home

Middletown Schools were one of the first in the region to start handing out school meals to families Monday morning as the Butler County district started its state-ordered shut down due to concerns about the Coronavirus. School officials said the initial morning was slow but they expect participation to pick up as the week goes on. Here a mother and her child pick up free meals from Middletown’s Creekview Elementary. Other local districts are also giving away free meals, some starting later this week. (Photo By Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)
Middletown Schools were one of the first in the region to start handing out school meals to families Monday morning as the Butler County district started its state-ordered shut down due to concerns about the Coronavirus. School officials said the initial morning was slow but they expect participation to pick up as the week goes on. Here a mother and her child pick up free meals from Middletown’s Creekview Elementary. Other local districts are also giving away free meals, some starting later this week. (Photo By Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)

Area schools started adjusting their partially closed K-12 operations due to concerns for the coronavirus by handing out free meals and others revving up digital remote learning and activities for children stuck at home.

Some school parents in Middletown Schools started their morning by going to their children’s local schools to pick up school-supplied meals.

At Creekview Elementary, school parent Crystal Dalton, who has four children in the Butler County district, walked to the school’s main entrance, where staffers came out to greet her and hand off bags of meals.

School officials are not allowing non-staffers to enter buildings during Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s ordered shutdown of all public and private schools in the state.

Dalton said she understood the precaution and was grateful for the breakfast and lunch for her children.

“Everyone is scared. We are staying at home and I have an elderly mother,” she said.

The free meals, she said, “are going to help us a lot.”

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Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for the 6,300-student city school system, said the food distribution program to eligible school families was starting expectantly slow on its first day but the district expects the pace to pick up later this week.

“So far I’ve heard positive comments. I hope people continue to come out,” said Beadle of the program, which runs Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at each of Middletown’s 10 school buildings.

Across Butler County and southern Warren County school district officials and teachers scrambled to provide not only meals but officials also advise parents to check their local public school district website for details on all available services while schools remain closed.

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In Mason, district personnel have coordinated with local organizations to help school families with children at home.

“We need educators, students and families to concentrate on staying healthy,” said Mason Schools Spokeswoman Tracey Carson, in a notice sent out to parents detailing food, online learning programs and how families without laptops or internet access can obtain both.

Lakota Schools has installed a variety of programs and services to help its school families.

“Our child nutrition department will implement a schedule similar to its summer lunch program during the shutdown to provide breakfast and lunch for our students on free/reduced lunch,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota.

“We are working on a plan to expand this program to include both more drop-off locations, as well as an optional pickup location. More specific information will be shared with our families next week. We anticipate beginning the program following next week’s spring break, starting with lunch on Monday, March 23.”

Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda Schools, said the changes brought on by the COVID-19 prevention measures has been jarring for many.

“I think a lot of people around the community are still in a bit of a shock. I think a lot of people don’t expect things like this to happen in their own communities,” said Morrish. “Kids are disappointed about the changes with athletics and clubs, and certainly they will miss the daily face-to-face connections with their friends.

“The comments I have heard the most from teachers is how much they will miss their students during this time.”