School, volunteers make sure children can eat

Flandreau School Board volunteer Kevin Christenson hands out sack lunches for students in a curbside delivery at the high school. The meals were to help feed children while school was called off.

Teachers prepare lessons for students to complete at home

Teachers prepare lessons for students to complete at home

The Flandreau School District, Fajitas Bar and Grill and an Egan family provided sack lunches to children who needed them while classes are out of session to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Lunches will continue to be handed out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this week, and breakfast has been added. When a child picks up a lunch, the next day’s breakfast also can be picked up.
Gov. Kristi Noem has ordered schools closed through March 27, a date that could change depending on the spread of the disease.
Monday through Wednesday last week -- the first days without school -- the district handed out sack lunches that included a meat and cheese sandwich, baby carrots, an apple and milk. The number of students grew during the first three days of the week from 107 lunches Monday to 147 Tuesday and 267 on Wednesday.
The option was opened up to anyone ages birth to 18 by the second day, which enabled more people to participate, said Stacey VanBeek, business manager.
“I’m happy that so many people are taking advantage of that,” she said.
The program is similar to the summer feeding program at the Boys and Girls Club of Moody County, a meal plan that is offered through a state program.
“We will be reimbursed through the state for those meals,” VanBeek said. “This is kind of an emergency program.”
The district is not providing any foods that needs to stay hot.
At Colman-Egan, sack lunches are available, and a few students have taken them, said Superintendent Brian Corlett.
The Flandreau district did not provide lunches Thursday and Friday because those days had been planned as a spring break. But the Tom and Michelle Ten Eyck family decided to help and made 500 lunches for those days. Fajitas Bar and Grill also served 385 lunches during that time to all ages of children.
Michelle Ten Eyck said that despite no school lunches, there still were kids in need.
“I just felt it was something our family could do to help out,” she said, adding that she received donations from Mike Witte at Maynard’s and from Rita Parsley, too.
Kindness can make a difference, she said. “We ask that people pay it forward where they can. Pick up groceries for someone who can’t go out. Check on your neighbors. Take a meal to those who may rely on food delivery services.”
Fajitas owner Nitza Rubenstein said when she heard there were no lunches Thursday and Friday, she, too, didn’t want kids to go hungry. She made lunches with tortas the first day and bean and cheese burritos the second day, with help from some volunteers and her family.
The restaurant was cooking the burritos, served hot, as people came through the drive-thru or just inside the front door. The restaurant remains open, but she is encouraging people to order and pick up their food.
Rubenstein has been helping a small group of Latino kids for about a month by feeding them after school because their parents work late. She knows what they are going through and doesn’t want the children to go to bed hungry.
“My capabilities are very limited,” she said. “There is a lot a lot of necessity in town.”
While she doesn’t plan to offer the lunches to kids on a regular basis, helping even one child makes a big difference in their life, she said. “If I have to do it again, I will be happy to do it.”
In addition to providing food, the district is working with families to help students complete lessons from home.
All lessons are linked to the school website and are available in packets at the school. High school students have school-issued computers they can use if their families have an internet connection. Otherwise, the work can be completed with paper and pencil and turned in.
The district’s teachers will be available for phones calls and emails from families and students with questions, said Superintendent Rick Weber.
“We’re still trying to follow the curriculum,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not ideal.”
As a result of following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, all school activities also are postponed, including prom, the all-school play and athletic practices. A discussion about graduation, scheduled for May, hasn’t come up yet, Weber said.
“Whatever the governor says and whatever the CDC says, that’s what we’re following,” he said.
The district’s hourly employees still are working by helping distribute lunches, contacting parents for the teachers, assisting teachers with distance learning efforts and escorting students to their lockers to retrieve belongings.
“As of now, everyone is still being paid,” VanBeek said.
Colman-Egan started making packets available earlier when school was called off, and teachers have enough work planned through this week for now, Corlett said. The school board also voted last Friday to pay all hourly personnel for the past two weeks when school has been closed.
 

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