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The Burlington School District offered meals to students starting Wednesday as schools were closed for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The closure was done in accordance with Gov. Phil Scott’s Sunday order for schools to shut down until at least April 6.
The district prepared 284 breakfasts and 316 lunches Wednesday, available for any child under the age of 18.
Breakfasts and lunches are available from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the North Avenue Alliance Church and the Edmunds Complex on Main Street, and from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Sustainability Academy and Champlain Elementary. Meals are available at the Boys and Girls Club from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The district is also delivering meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to the following housing complexes: Riverside, Bobbin Mill, Salmon Run, Franklin Square, South Meadow and North Gate.
Superintendent Yaw Obeng said that meal distribution had run smoothly Wednesday. Obeng said he visited food services staff in the high school kitchen and saw delivery at North Avenue Alliance Church and in elementary school parking lots.
“It was with great pride to see, in these times of challenges, our staff able to come together and provide the nutritional meals students need when disconnected from us,” he said.
Obeng said the district was working to set up child care programs for the children of essential employees of the city and school district, first responders and medical personnel.
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The district sent a survey to community members to determine the demand for child care. Obeng said the district was not sure when it would open child care as it was continuing to review sites and continuing planning.
Obeng said he was encouraged by conversations with union leaders about the willingness of some district employees to help with child care during the pandemic. He said the district was hoping the state would lift some child care regulations so the district could staff the programs more quickly.
Obeng said the district’s goal was to continue to pay all of its employees during the pandemic. He said the district was committed to paying all of its teachers, nurses, school psychologists, social workers, paraprofessionals and special educators.
The district will also continue to pay property service workers, bus drivers, guidance counselors, office personnel and food services staff. All of the above employees will also continue to receive benefits, Obeng said.
Obeng said the district was working to determine if it can pay temporary, hourly staff, including some who work on after-school programs. For example, some UVM students work with the district’s after-school programs, and are not getting paid at this time.
The district’s special education services will be available by phone and email during school hours, and multilingual liaisons will continue to work during the pandemic.
Obeng said that the district was “absolutely” ready to transition to out-of-school learning. He said that more parents than he expected picked up hard copies of learning plans Wednesday, which was offered as an alternative to online learning plans.
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