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Harper Woods Schools to provide meals, schoolwork for students during closure

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published March 16, 2020

File photo by Edward Osinski

HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods School District announced that it will be providing free breakfast and lunch meal pickups on weekdays during the statewide mandated school closures.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that all schools in the state remain closed until Monday, April 6 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among the ramifications of this decision is that families have to provide meals for children who would get meals in schools under normal circumstances.

Harper Woods Schools announced that it would be stepping in to assist families who could have trouble bearing that extra burden by offering pickup meals at its school buildings in a way that would require minimum contact with others.

“Breakfast and lunch pickup will begin on Wednesday, March 18, and will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” said Harper Woods Superintendent Steven McGhee. “If the emergency is extended, we will continue to offer nutritional meals to the students and families of Harper Woods. They don’t have to have a child in the district to get food. Similarly to our summer school food program, you just have to be hungry and show up.”

The pickup points will be at the four schools in the district. This includes Beacon Elementary School, located at 19475 Beaconsfield St.; Tyrone Elementary School, located at 19525 Tyrone St.; Harper Woods Middle School, located at 19800 Anita St.; and Harper Woods High School, located at 20225 Beaconsfield St.

“There will be tables located near the front entrance of each building, so no one will have to go into the building more than 5 or 6 feet,” McGhee explained. “They don’t have to show any credentials. The meals will be in a bag, they will be placed on a table, and people can come in and take them away.”

Harper Woods School District Chief Operating Officer Dwayne Richardson said these programs will not be a drain on the schools, given they are offered while school is in session.

“This is no additional financial strain for the district,” he said. “We would still be providing these meals if school was in session. Our provider, Chartwells, is receiving aid from the state so they can continue to provide their services so children aren’t going hungry.”

In addition to the meals, the district is providing students several methods to remain caught up on their educations during the closure.

“Students will be able to pick up homework packets as well — the same way as the food,” McGhee said. “Each teacher is preparing packets for their students, which can be picked up the same way as the meals, as well as offering them online as a Google Document, so students can continue their education while they are out. Lessons also will be posted on the district’s website. (The packets will consist of) schoolwork for them for the next three weeks.”

He also said that it will be up to each individual teacher about whether the assignments will be graded or how they will follow up on the take-home assignments once classes resume.

“The main point is preventing brain drain while students are out of classes,” McGhee said.

McGhee stressed the importance of school districts providing food for families and how many families who are struggling financially rely on the school-provided meals.

“In the district, 98% of families qualify for free and reduced (price) lunches,” he said. “Some families rely on these meals to help them remain fiscally responsible. We don’t want them to lose that just because school is out.”

Both administrators said the key to getting through the current crisis is to remain calm and follow the instructions of medical authorities.

“Be cautious, be safe, be careful and practice good hygiene as recommended by the (Centers for Disease Control and prevention) and in accordance with the governor,” said Richardson. “The Harper Woods School District’s first priority is the safety and well-being of our families and those in our community. We want everyone in the city and the surrounding areas to remain safe and healthy.” 

“We will be diligent and be in alignment with the governor, the CDC and the rest of the state agencies handling our current situation,” added McGhee.

Updates and additional information on the meal and school assignment programs can be found on the Harper Woods School District website at www.hwschools.org.