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Schools feed students during COVID-19 pandemic despite closures

HARLEM VALLEY — Even though schools across the state have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, school districts remain responsible for getting educational materials to students — any way they can. But what about feeding students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches for sustenance? The North East (Webutuck), Pine Plains and Millbrook Central School Districts have worked out solutions, so healthy food can be delivered to students at their homes throughout the closure’s duration.

Webutuck Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani issued a letter on Friday, March 13, regarding the district’s plans to provide breakfast and lunch to students during this time. Any families in need of assistance are encouraged to email Castellani at Raymond.castellani@webutuck.org and to include their children’s names and address in the email. For those who don’t speak English as their primary language, families may also contact Monica Baker, an English as a Second Language Teacher at Webutuck Elementary School, at 845-332-0087.

Castellani said the plans are to personally deliver breakfast and lunch to the families and their children. He said Webutuck administrators and staff members have volunteered their time to help prepare and deliver meal packets. For breakfast, students can enjoy cereal, milk, fruit and juice, and then sandwiches, chips and salad for lunch.

Kicking off the new meal program on Monday, March 16, Castellani was reported that the district successfully delivered a total of 150 food packets to students in just one day.

“We are very proud that within literally one day, we were able to accomplish this mass delivery door-to-door to our families,” Castellani said, “and it could not be done without the tireless efforts of a number of our staff members, including our business administrator, food service director, transportation director, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, teachers and support staff.”

Castellani said the district plans to apply for state grants to help pay for the program. For the time being, the district is delivering breakfast and lunch to students on Mondays through Fridays.

In a recent letter posted on the district website, Pine Plains Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler provided families with an outline of the district’s goals to provide bagged lunches and breakfasts to students in need.

To request meals, Handler advised that families email mealorder@ppcsd.org to have meals provided throughout the duration of the closure. All requests must include the name of the person picking up the meals and the name of the students and/or children who will receive the meals. Families should also indicate if their children have any nut allergies. Requests received by 6 p.m. each evening will be filled the next business day. Should families decide that they no longer need the meals, Handler recommended that they contact mealorder@ppcsd.org to keep the district updated.

Throughout the duration of the closure, families can pick up the bagged meals for their children on a daily basis at the voter entrance of the Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School building (located on the far left side of the school building) between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays. For those who are unable to pick up the meals, Handler assured families that the district has volunteers who will be delivering meals on Mondays through Fridays. Families have been advised to provide an address for the deliveries as well as indicators for their address (such as the color of their house) and whether they have any animals that volunteers should be aware of when delivering the meals.

At this time, Handler announced that the bagged meal deliveries are being made by district employees who have volunteered to do so, and that they may be delivering meals either in a school vehicle or in their own personal vehicle. Meals will be left at the front door of the families’ homes to avoid putting people at risk of any illness.

At the Pine Plains Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Wednesday, March 18, BOE President Chip Couse reported that, “the mix of requests is approximately 50/50 for those picking up the meals and volunteers delivering these meals to those who cannot pick them up on their own. Those volunteering to make deliveries are mostly teachers, but all with spirit.”

Meanwhile, Millbrook Interim Superintendent of Schools Laura Mitchell reported that breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided to students who are currently eligible for the Free and Reduced Priced School Meals program during the closure. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, families that didn’t previously take advantage of that program can still elect to do so by contacting Director of Food Services Holly Heady via email at holly.heady@millbrookcsd.org or by calling 845-677-4200, ext. 1137. Families may also contact Administrative Assistant/District Clerk Cheryl Sprague cheryl.sprague@millbrookcsd.org or at 845-677-4200, ext. 1100 for more information.

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