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While Lebanon County school districts are on a forced coronavirus vacation, some parents are concerned with keeping their children entertained while they’re stuck at home for two weeks. Others are thinking more about ways to keep the kids’ minds active and learning until classes resume.
In some cases, however, the more immediate worry is how to keep children fed. For some families, the meals their kids get at school are a vital part of their daily diet.
To meet the need, several school districts in Lebanon County are offering meals to keep those young tummies full.
“We want to encourage people to participate,” Philip L. Domencic, superintendent of Cornwall-Lebanon School District, said Wednesday. “Everybody is trying to get the word out as much as possible. People just need to show up.”
Cornwall-Lebanon began offering free breakfasts and lunches to all students enrolled in the district on Tuesday. Initially, he said, meals were being distributed only at Union Canal Elementary School at 400 Narrows Drive; as of Thursday, he said, distribution will be expanded to the Church of the Good Shepherd at 1500 Quentin Road.
“We’ve been serving probably 250 meals a day,” Domencic said. Once they begin handing out meals at a second location, he said, “we’ll probably increase our numbers.”
Meals will be distributed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, he said. Food is prepared by the district’s cafeteria workers, he explained, and administrators are helping to hand off the meals to parents as they drive through the line.
“We are grateful for all the people who are volunteering to help. Obviously, we can’t have mass groups of people here, but we appreciate it,” Domencic said.
“Nobody is coming inside,” he added. “All this is grab and go.”
School employees are maintaining “social distancing” from each other and people who pass through the line, the superintendent explained. Food is extended to motorists on a tray, so there’s no direct contact between people.
“Follow the traffic patterns outlined on the map,” the district website warns. “Please do not leave your vehicle at any time.”
Meals are being provided for students only, according to the Cornwall-Lebanon website. Students who need a meal should be in the car with their parent for pickup.
For more information on the Cornwall-Lebanon program or to complete the order form so the district knows how many meals to prepare, go to the district’s website.
Costs of the meal program are being covered by the same state and federal sources that pay for the district’s free-meal program for students in need, Domencic said. At this time, he said, they are planning to run the program through March 27, when the governor’s order to close schools is scheduled to expire.
“Our endpoint, we’re hoping, is a week from Friday,” he said. “We have no other information, so we’re operating on a two-week shutdown. Those are the facts that we know.”
According to the United Way of Lebanon County, similar programs are being offered at Annville-Cleona, Eastern Lebanon County, Lebanon, Northern Lebanon and Palmyra school districts.
Details in each district vary. At Lebanon, for instance, meals are offered on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays at three locations: the rear entrance of the high school at 1000 S. 8th St., the rear entrance of the middle school at 350 N. 8th St. and the side entrance of Northwest Elementary School at 1315 Old Forge Road.
“Lunches will include sandwiches, fresh vegetables, fruit, and milk. Cereal and other assorted breakfast items, along with a fruit and juice will be provided for snack,” the district says on its website. “No congregating at the location is permitted.”
In Northern Lebanon, the school is handing out a “free three-day Grab-N-GO style bagged breakfast and lunch” from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at the high school, 345 School Drive.
Parents must preregister for pickup by 5 p.m. Thursday. Details are online.
In Palmyra, free lunches begin Thursday, March 19, with caregivers and families able to pick-up meals on a first come, first serve basis at Northside Elementary School on weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Children through age 18 will receive a meal if presented at the distribution site (students in town may walk). Lunches will include sandwiches, fresh vegetables, fruit, and milk. No congregating is permitted at the location.
Officials at several schools did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
More information on all participating school districts is available online from the United Way.
Besides feeding the students, districts are also concerned with their mental well-being.
“Keep the kids calm,” Domencic said Wednesday. “We have resources on our website, as do all other districts. And, on a nice day like today, get outside.
“Although, obviously, not in groups bigger than 10.”
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