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Schools focus on nutrition, distance learning during health crisis

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 19, 2020

 During the school closure, seventh grader Caleb Beaver, fifth grader Cayden Beaver, third grader Madison Beaver and kindergartner McKinley Beaver — all students who attend Madison District Public Schools — engage in optional enrichment opportunities to keep them sharp.

During the school closure, seventh grader Caleb Beaver, fifth grader Cayden Beaver, third grader Madison Beaver and kindergartner McKinley Beaver — all students who attend Madison District Public Schools — engage in optional enrichment opportunities to keep them sharp.

Photo provided by Madison District Public Schools

 Emma Riggs, a fifth grader in the Madison school district, practices distance learning from home.

Emma Riggs, a fifth grader in the Madison school district, practices distance learning from home.

Photo provided by Madison District Public Schools

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MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — With all public schools across the state closed through April 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic, local school districts have shifted their focus to ensuring children get the meals that they need, while also providing them with enrichment opportunities outside the classroom.

Here’s what the three local school districts are doing:


Madison District Public Schools
Many children depend on the meals provided by their local school districts to meet their daily nutritional needs. Recognizing this, Madison District Public Schools, or MDPS, has made arrangements to reach as many children as possible, regardless of whether they attend MDPS.

“Given all the hysteria going on, you see the grocery stores emptied out, and sometimes the only meals the kids get are from us,” MDPS Superintendent Angel Abdulahad said. “So my directive to the staff is I want no kid unfed, whether they’re our kids or not. If they roll up to our distribution centers for food, we’re going to feed them.”

The MDPS Food Service Department is providing cold breakfast and sack lunches through April 3, available via drive-thru pickup at Madison High School, 915 E. 11 Mile Road.

The pickups take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The Tuesday distributions provide meals for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Friday distributions provide meals for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For the district’s Pontiac families, the MDPS Transportation Department, along with the Food Service Department, will deliver cold breakfast and sack lunches between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, located at 174 Branch St. in Pontiac. Drive-thru pickups are available on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the Tuesday distributions providing for the rest of the week.

For more information, call MDPS Food Service Director Cat Vyse at (248) 953-7423 or email cvyse@madisonschools.k12.us.

Abdulahad also noted that Oakland County has established a help hotline to assist residents who may be in need of food or housing assistance at this time. The number there is (248) 858-1000, staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As for the district’s distance learning, each school in the district has developed a plan for delivering academic content to students during the extended closure, utilizing such resources as online learning spaces. Details are available at madisondistrict.org on the MDPS Distance Learning page linked in the “Coronavirus Update” column on the right side of the main page.

The superintendent said that nothing can replace in-person classroom learning, but the goal is to disrupt the learning process as little as possible during the closures. At the same time, however, students will not be penalized for failure to engage.

“I’ve given my administrators a directive that nothing that transpires during this three-week period should be punitive for students,” Abdulahad said. “Everything is to enhance and enrich. Nothing will be punitive in nature. We don’t know their home situation.”

He also encouraged families to check the district’s website and social media for updates, and the district will continue to inform parents and guardians via phone blasts, letters and more.

“The more transparent we are with families, the better,” Abdulahad said.


Hazel Park Public Schools
Over in Hazel Park’s school district, which includes parts of Ferndale, free breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided seven days a week through April 6.

Pickups are held Mondays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hazel Park High School, 23400 Hughes Ave. in Hazel Park; Webb Elementary School, 2100 Woodward Heights Blvd. in Ferndale; and United Oaks Elementary School, 1001 E. Harry Ave. in Hazel Park.

On Fridays, the person picking up the meals has the option of selecting three meals per student to accommodate weekend meals.

Amy Kruppe, the superintendent of Hazel Park Public Schools, said that she has directed her staff to check their email daily and to actively reach out to students once a week to provide any needed enrichment and emotional support.

“All of our amazing teachers and ancillary staff developed work for our students that can be downloaded or was picked up on March 16,” Kruppe said. “Our staff worked hard to make sure we gave work for our students to keep their skills fresh and sharp.”

The work resources are available on the district’s website, hazelparkschools.org.

“We will also be giving students apps to try on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages throughout the week,” Kruppe added.

She said that at press time, it was not clear whether school districts will need to make up lost time due to the closures, and that this decision will be made by the state Legislature and the governor.

“If I were a betting woman, with all of the schools across the country that have to be closed, my guess would be that time will not be made up,” Kruppe said. “With all of the changes that are happening minute by minute, we do not know what will be happening next.”

In the meantime, as a safety precaution, staff will not be re-entering the buildings during the closure and administration will be working at home as well, with daily teleconferencing. The custodial, transportation and maintenance staff are conducting a deep cleaning, following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The district offers families several ways to stay up to date. There is a COVID-19 button on the district’s website featuring frequently asked questions; there is a “Talk with Us” button where families can sign up for news alerts pertaining to the district; there is a home-based resources button with folders containing study-at-home enrichment materials for all grades, plus web-based resources that are updated daily; and families can reach the central district office by calling (248) 658-5200 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Administration personnel are having calls forwarded to their cellphones.

The district’s community representative, Lisa Chrouch-Johnson, will also be checking her messages during the closure. Families can reach her by calling (248) 658-5525 or by emailing lisa.chrouch-johnson@hazelparkschools.org.


Lamphere Public Schools
In the Lamphere school district, as of March 16, the plan was to provide free breakfast and lunch for children ages 0-18, with people picking up a week’s supply each Monday for the next three weeks.

The pickups are available every Monday from 10 to 11 a.m. during the closure. The location is curbside at Lamphere High School, 610 W. 13 Mile Road, on the building’s east side by the main entrance.

“Since we are doing it weekly, they receive five breakfasts and five lunches as long as food holds out,” Lamphere Superintendent Dale Steen said.

Links to additional resources for families in need of aid are available on the district’s website, lamphereschools.org.

Also available on the website are supplemental educational activities for students, crafted by the teaching staff. The district has also been loaning Google Chromebooks to families without computers.

“We have provided the enrichment materials to students, although these are only enrichment and supplemental materials,” Steen said. “This material will not be graded.”

Steen echoed what Kruppe said, explaining that the district is awaiting determination from the state on whether the days that students have missed will be waived from the existing requirements of 180 days and 1,098 hours of school time.

In the meantime, the district’s custodial staff is conducting a deep cleaning of all facilities, and the district will be pushing out information through its usual channels of e-news and social media.

“We want all of our families to know that we want them to follow the recommendations that continuously come out regarding social distancing and other safety precautions,” Steen said. “Most of all, we want everyone in the Lamphere family to stay calm, support each other and stay safe.”

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