Photo:  Students at West Orange-Cove schools pick up their free school breakfasts and lunch from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the North Early Learning Center and West Orange-Stark High School.

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

The COVID-19 pandemic means public schools around the country are reaching their students’ minds by new means.

But there is one long-standing connection that hasn’t been broken.

Lunch ladies. They are still serving up school meals in Orange County.

The delivery methods are a bit different, though.

Students at Bridge City, Orangefield and West Orange-Cove schools are picking up their free lunch meals and Grab-and-Go breakfasts in drive-through styles at district campuses.

At Little Cypress-Mauriceville, school buses are delivering the meals to student’s homes.

The free meal program is run by the Texas Department of Agriculture and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the schools to provide meals during an unanticipated school closure due to the coronavirus closure.

It’s open to all students under the age of 18 – and those older than 18 in public or non-profit school programs established for the mentally or physically disabled. The only requirement is that the student must be present in the car to receive a meal.

Meals may be picked up for West Orange-Cove students between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the North Early Learning Center and West Orange-Stark High School.

Workers at the high school said they’d served about 80 students by 11:45 a.m. Things were busier at the North campus, where 256 students picked up meals by 12:15 p.m.

Cafeteria workers work two at a time outside. They wear aprons, gloves and masks for safety.

Parents and students driving up to the sites are asked by cafeteria workers how many students they are picking up for and workers look in the car windows to see the students.

Then meals are handed though open doors or windows to the cars’ passengers.

“Our food department members went through health screening and temperature checks prior to preparing to launch the drive-thru distribution,” Bridge City ISD announced on its Facebook page Tuesday, the first day of its Grab and Go program.

“Be sure to thank these amazing workers for their countless hours of preparation and coming out of their homes to take care of our student needs. These behind the scenes heroes deserve all the credit!”

In Bridge City, meals are available from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Bridge City Elementary School and Bridge City High School.

Orangefield students and their parents pick up their meals between 10:30 a.m. and noon at the Junior High School.

LCM got a special waiver to allow its buses to deliver both lunch and breakfast on the same runs, district spokeman Sherry Combs said.

“The buses leave the cafeterias at 9:30 each morning,” she said.

Nutrition staff at each of the district’s six campuses prepares the meals for the students.

“It’s not so overwhelming when you just do your kids as it would be to prepare food for 3,000 kids at one place,” Combs said.

Unlike Bridge City, Orangefield and West Orange schools, LCM was not out on spring break last week and got a week’s jump on the others when it comes to its flexible education plan, which is another term for online learning and take-home instruction.

“Each teacher has a web page, or they go to Facebook, whichever works best for the kids,” Combs said.

“Teachers have been doing some really fun things. A lot of the teachers that were hesitant about working with computers, they’ve tried computers and they’ve liked it.”

Orangefield ISD is asking students without technology to pick up their assignments at their respective campuses from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. this week. An additional pickup time is Friday, March 27 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

OISD students who left prescription medicines at the school may pick them up from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, March 26 and Friday, March 27.