PELL CITY -- With schools starting back next month, local systems are returning to a question they have had to answer before, namely, how do they feed students without exposing them to COVID-19.
Pell City Schools Superintendent Dr. James Martin said his team is looking at possibilities. Martin said the schools have received a federal waiver for their feeding program and may begin by just looking at students who are attending school physically.
He said the system is waiting on state guidance on how to handle students attending virtual school.
“We are wanting to see what we could do,” Martin said “My guess is it would look like last spring.”
Martin said one issue is if students can even make it to school to pick up meals, which was sometimes a problem with the previous program.
As for students attending on campus, Martin said the current plan is to have lunchrooms operate at full service but in a to-go format. He said cafeterias will only be able to hold 50 percent of their maximum capacity, with some students having to eat in their classrooms.
Martin said he was touring schools Friday to look at what could be done to facilitate social distancing.
Martin said he knows the situation is stressful for everyone involved but stressed safety was his team’s highest priority.
St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard said his system is also looking at what individual campuses will have to do for lunch.
“Each school is going to be different,” Howard said.
He said many will have older students eating in classrooms, while younger students eat in the cafeteria because it's harder for a younger child to carry his/her food to class. He also said some schools may even have tables in hallways to keep students properly distanced.
Howard said under the governor’s safer-at-home order, school cafeterias do not have any special rules specifically for them.
“We have to follow restaurant rules from the governor’s order,” Howard said, adding even school-based concession stands have to operate by these same rules.
He said lunchrooms will have more prepackaged foods but will still serve hot meals, not sacked lunches.
As for virtual students, Howard said a plan is already in place.
“If they (students) are online, they can pick up meals for the week,” Howard said.
He said the program will work the same as the system’s spring meal program. He said the program will only require a student or his/her parents to come to the back of the lunchroom or another location specified by the individual school.