Muskegon Public Schools will provide breakfast and lunch for students during closure

Muskegon Public Schools administrators are working on a plan to ensure their students receive food during the closure of all K-12 school buildings. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Muskegon Public Schools is launching a plan to ensure no student will go hungry during the mandated three-week closure of all K-12 school buildings in Michigan.

Through a partnership with Dean Transportation and Chartwells, the district will provide breakfasts and lunches for MPS students on a daily basis during the closure that is expected to last from March 16 through April 5. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday night the upcoming closure of all K-12 schools—public, private and boarding—in Michigan in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, an infectious disease that has caused thousands of deaths around the globe.

“We’re here to protect kids; by slowing down the progress of this disease and flattening the curve of infection, we’re protecting our families,” Muskegon Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Cortez said of the closure.  “It’s the right thing to do.”

Upon news of the mandated closures, Muskegon Public Schools immediately began formulating a plan to ensure their students would receive food while not in school. The overwhelming majority of Muskegon Public Schools students are eligible for free and reduced lunches: 2,935 of the district’s 3,551 students were eligible for free lunches and 176 were eligible for reduced lunch during the 2018-19 school year, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

On a daily basis, the district will load breakfasts and lunches onto buses, which will then travel throughout the district to drop the food off for students. The district has created a bus schedule route and is letting parents and students know what time the buses will be at each of the stops in order for them to pick up their meals. The plan is currently being finalized, after which the information will be released to parents and students.

In addition to accessing food, the district will provide distance learning for their students. 

“They’ll be doing learning at home, and third through 12th graders will be taking home their Chromebooks” in order to continue their classwork, Cortez said.

Teachers will have office hours during which they’ll answer calls and emails every day, Cortez said.

For parents or students who have questions, Cortez said all schools in the district will keep their offices open from 11am to 1pm every day. Individuals will be welcome to call or stop by during that time.

“I want people to know that student safety, staff safety, and the safety of our community is our top priority,” Cortez said.

The governor’s decision to close all school buildings comes after 12 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Michigan on Thursday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.  The coronavirus cases include:

  • An adult female from Ingham County with a history of travel on a cruise.
  • Two adult females from Kent County and one adult male, all with a history of international travel.
  • An adult female from Montcalm with a history of international travel.
  • Two adult males from Oakland County; one with no travel history and one with domestic travel.
  • An adult male from St. Clair County with a history of domestic travel.
  • One adult female and one adult male from Washtenaw County; one with a history of domestic travel and one with a history of international travel.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus that can cause a fever, cough and shortness of breath and which is 10 times more fatal than the flu, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the worst COVID-19 cases, patients’ lungs will fill with so much fluid that no amount of breathing support can help, and the patient dies.

The virus is believed to be spread primarily from person-to-person and between people who are in close contact with one another—about six feet. The virus is passed through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Nobody in Muskegon County has tested positive for the coronavirus—of which more than 125,000 cases have been reported globally and which has caused more than 4,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, there are about 1,700 reported cases of coronavirus and 40 coronavirus-related deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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