Spring break continued for Gulf District Schools’ students this week, but it was all hands on deck among district staff.
The district began a feeding program this week which will continue Monday through Friday until at least April 15 while instructional staff and principals were crafting an education continuity plan.
That plan will be implemented beginning Monday at all district schools.
The district fed roughly 900 people to begin the week, providing a lunch based around a chicken wrap, and Tuesday morning district employees were grilling hamburgers.
“It is a beautiful sight watching all these people putting together meals for almost 1,000 people in this county,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “We don’t deny service to anyone.
“If we can do things like this, I am happy. I am honored.”
After considering several options for meal distribution, including local volunteer fire departments that played such a key role after Hurricane Michael, the district chose to stick with bus routes as the most efficient.
Buses are running their routine routes, with meals dropped off at each stop five hours after that child would report to school: the school day begins at 7:30 a.m. local time; lunch will arrive at the bus stop at around 12:30 p.m.
“We even went street-to-street and in some cases house-to-house in some of more rural areas,” Norton said. “We did our regular bus routes plus five hours.”
In addition, meals are available are available 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. local time each day at Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka elementary schools.
Norton indicated that the district was in good shape to handle the feeding program through April 15 and beyond if necessary.
“Everybody has to step up, parents included,” Norton said.
And that will be particularly true on the education side, with continuity plans taking effect on Monday.
The district will be using, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lori Price said, “paper, pencil and packets” at both elementary and high school levels.
The disbursement of laptops or other technology will be limited to ESE students, students for which English is a second language and other exceptional education students.
Each packet will include a digital component in those cases where a student has home access to a computer.
At the elementary school level, instructional packets will focus on math and reading with a bit of science and social studies tossed in.
One of the lessons will be a journal in which students would document living in a world with COVID-19, a history lesson students could put away to show their children and grandchildren, Price said.
At the high school level, the focus will be on continuing progress on whatever track a student is on.
In practice, that will mean picking up a packet on Monday which will be due back in a specified timeframe at which point the student will receive another packet.
Currently, there are two sequences for Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School students and four for Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School students, Price said.
The final plan was expected to be completed Wednesday to be approved during this morning’s meeting of the Gulf County School Board.
That meeting will also be the second for local governments in this time of coronavirus.
The state has provided guidelines for conducting public government meetings while still meeting “social distancing” and Sunshine Law mandates.
Last week, an emergency meeting of the Board of County Commissioners was marked by distance between county staff in the room and limited attendance to essential personnel.
Today, the School Board was to conduct its meeting by teleconference, with the public provided the option of participating via Skype from the operations building across the parking lot from the board meeting room.
By order of the governor, all schools are closed until at least April 15.