Englewood Schools Director of Nutrition Services Katie Cossette called school cafeteria workers unsung heroes, whether they get recognized or not. Those heroes in Englewood Schools are the ones who provide the only nutritious meals some Englewood students receive, Cossette said. Data from the school district shows 57% of Englewood Schools students receive free school lunch while an additional 8% get lunch at a reduced price.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Englewood Schools will be closed through at least April 17 per orders from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, and those students who rely on food from school can't get it in cafeterias for the time being. Instead, school cafeteria workers are leaving the kitchen and providing food outside Cherrelyn Elementary, 4500 S. Lincoln St., and Bishop Elementary, 3100 S. Elati St.
Englewood Schools is providing grab-and-go meals outside the two schools for any child under the age of 18 as the school district contemplates what is next for learning operations. Children can visit the schools from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and receive breakfast and lunch combined in one package throughout the time schools are closed.
Cossette said the food stations are offering yogurt, granola, breakfast bars, sandwiches, low-fat milk, fresh fruit and vegetables. For now, the school district has enough food, but it may take donations at some point.
“It is awesome to do this for our kids and be able to act when they really need us. It is also really rewarding to see us interacting with the community and getting the opportunity to show what nutrition services is all about — feeding kids,” said Cossette. “We'll always be here for them.”
Some Englewood Schools staff members are also taking advantage of the food stations, including Lisa Duvall, a kitchen supervisor at Clayton Elementary School. Duvall's two grandchildren are in kindergarten at Bishop Elementary and are on free and reduced lunch.
“(The food stations help) out the family, it helps out the community, and I think it also helps the kids to realize there are other resources than going to the grocery store,” said Duvall.
While Cossette and her staff continue to provide meals for Englewood students, Englewood Schools Superintendent Wendy Rubin has the task of guiding the school district through a closure that was only supposed to last until March 30 — the date when students were scheduled to return from spring break.
The school district announced on March 19 that starting April 1, its students will start online learning.
“Good online instruction is so much more (difficult) than people realize. It isn’t just about sending someone an email or getting into a Blackboard interface,” said Rubin. Blackboard is an educational technology company that delivers a platform for online learning for schools.
“It is a very different animal to be providing strong instruction through an online platform,” she added.
Englewood Schools will use Google Classroom to provide online learning for children in grades two through 12. Google Classroom is a free platform that allows teachers to create classes, distribute assignments and more. Children in kindergarten and first grade will be educated through Seesaw, another remote learning provider.
The school district will deliver Chromebooks and iPads to any family whose child did not take their device home. All kindergarten and first grade students have iPads issued to them by the district while all other students receive Chromebooks.
Englewood City Manager Shawn Lewis said the city is looking into using emergency funds to provide hot spots or internet to Englewood families who do not have it. Englewood City Council passed an emergency declaration at a March 17 meeting that allows for city funds to be reallocated to critical needs.
Apple Chavez, who has children in Englewood High School, Englewood Middle School and Clayton Elementary School, said she is concerned her children won't get the same education online as opposed to in the classroom if the school district does opt for online learning.
She made the decision to take her children out of school a week before the school district announced it was closing on March 16 due to concerns about COVID-19.
“It was for everybody's safety and well-being. I thought it was the right choice to pull them out,” she said. Chavez added that she works at Walgreens and takes all the precautions she can but worries about bringing the virus back to her children.
Rubin said she has been in constant communication with other Denver metro area school superintendents, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Tri-County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
“I think one of the key takeaways is there are a lot of people who are working really hard to collaborate on decision-making and making sure we are taking everything into account and that we are in (communication) with health experts. We all are absolutely as district leaders working together to make sure we're helping each other out to think of things,” said Rubin. “We're sharing ideas and resources, and that is something I am extremely proud of.”
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