Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said Monday that kids will not go hungry during the school closures that have been caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic — and neither will their families.
Nelson told reporters that the district will do everything possible to continue providing nutrition to Fresno Unified’s 74,000 students, many of whom typically have received their breakfast and lunch at school.
“The nutrition of students remains a sacrosanct function across our nation,” he said during the mid-afternoon news conference, which was held outdoors on a loading dock of the district headquarters in downtown Fresno. “The last thing that will go down at Fresno Unified is feeding kids every day.”
And, Nelson said, the district has expanded the meals to families “for as long as we can,” he said. “We do not want to put up barriers for families getting the food they need.”
Meals At All Sites Tuesday
The school sites will again provide to-go meals — breakfast and lunch at the same pick-up — at all sites Tuesday, and then officials will look for patterns and determine whether sites can be consolidated and specific hours set up for meal pick-ups, he said.
Consolidation will help the district minimize the number of people handling the food, Nelson said.
Government officials are recommending that people keep at least six feet apart and avoid large group gatherings.
No Pay For Substitutes
The superintendent had some bad news for substitute employees, who won’t be able to work during the closures, which means they won’t get paid. Full-time employees, on the other hand, will continue to receive paychecks during the closures.
Nelson said he would encourage part-timers to apply for unemployment, which the district will not contest, so they can have income while schools are closed.
He said that Wednesday’s update, in addition to information about school meals, will provide information about educational materials that parents can work on with their children while schools remain closed. Today was the first day of the closure, which is scheduled to continue through April 13.
Weekly Updates Every Friday
The district will provide weekly updates every Friday, starting this week, he said.
Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the district’s Call Center at 559-457-3395, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nelson said.
Parents who need to pick up a child’s medication stored at school can go to the school Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Schools are otherwise closed to the public.
Extended School Year?
As to whether the school year would need to be extended to make up for the weeks when schools are closed, Nelson said that decision has not been made yet at the state level.
Nelson said the district is following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive for Californians over 65 and individuals with underlying health problems to remain home in isolation, and he urged district staffers to let their supervisors know if they fall in those categories.
Board president Keshia Thomas, who was also at the news conference, said she was gratified to hear so much support from employees at school sites and by email, who said they wanted to help in any way possible during the crisis.
“I am so happy to be part of the team here at Fresno Unified, to be able to manage this hard situation,” she said.