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Imperial Valley School Districts Continue to Feed Students Despite Closures

By: Mario Conde, Reporter.

Luz Lopez parked in front of Rockwood Elementary School in Calexico to receive meals for her three children that are enrolled in school.

Even when schools closed as a matter of precaution due to COVID-19, school districts in Imperial Valley continue to give breakfast and lunch to their students.

“I’m very grateful they are doing this because it helps us a lot during this time,” Lopez said before going home again with the lunch supplies given to her.

Long lines can be seen all over the valley of parents taking their children to get a meal while they stay at home protecting themselves from the virus.

In an emergency meeting held March 16 between all the Superintendents and the Imperial Valley Health Department, it was decided to close all schools beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, April 17, in response to the COVID-19.

Imperial County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday said in a press release that while there are two Coronavirus cases in the Imperial Valley and with no evidence community transmission at this time, this number may grow in the coming days and weeks which may require a lengthy closure or additional measures.

The Calexico Unified School District Food Services Department developed a plan to provide meals to all students and any children 18 and under living in the same household, Superintendent Carlos Gonzalez told Beyond Borders Gazette.

Breakfast and lunch are being prepared daily and served at all schools. All food is to be taken and consumed offsite.

March 17 was the first day of service and approximately 2,447 breakfast and lunch meals were served to students. On March 18, approximately 4,018 breakfast and lunch meals were served.

“The meals served have increased,” Gonzalez said.

He added that the Food Services Department is prepared with enough food supplies to meet the demands of all students throughout the duration of the emergency closure.

“We are prepared to serve every single student and every child under the age of 18 in our community,” Gonzalez said. “The Food Services Department prepares as many hot meals as we believe we will dispense but we also have cold sandwiches ready to go so no one has turned away without a meal.”

Calexico has a large number of students that are homeless. Gonzalez said Dr. Jorge Villalobos has begun contacting homeless students and families to make sure they are aware of the services they have access to.

“Currently any student that may not have access to an electronic device may request one. The district will be making sure that all students experiencing homelessness are receiving educational services. Dr. Villalobos will be assisting all families experiencing homelessness by providing guidance on how to access remote learning applications, contacting teachers and obtaining any materials or support services that they may need.”

The Heber Elementary School District Child Nutrition Services team served over 1,400 meals on the first day of closure – ensuring that Heber children weren’t hungry.  Heber School Board member Tony Sandoval said the board made a commitment to their community to continue providing breakfast and lunch, for free during the closure.

“Our teachers and staff have prepared packages for all students to ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education.  Teachers and staff are available to support students via email and a variety of classroom electronic communication methods.  Soon, we will deploy electronic devices to student homes to allow students and teachers the ability to complete assignments electronically.” Sandoval said.

He added: “I’m proud of our Heber team for how quick they were able to transfer from in-person based instruction to remote learning.  I’m proud of the professionalism that our staff has shown – putting students and the communities need first. I’m humbled by the heart our staff has shown and the whatever-it-takes approach they’ve used.”

Brawley Elementary School District is also feeding their students with no problems. According to Superintendent Richard Rundhaug, they have served about 1,100 students and have enough to serve the students for a month.

“We normally serve about 3,500 lunches per day. We do not believe we will have difficulty ordering food.” Rundhaug said.

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