As the Newton USD 373 Board of Education moved to a "green" mode of operation for Sept. 21-25, the board discussed some of the struggles to get school lunches distributed to students who are not attending schools within school buildings.
"Food service for remote and hybrid learners will start this week," said superintendent Fred Van Rankin. "... We heard last Monday that at the federal level that they were going to allow us to continue the summer food (free) program."
The district has not been distributing meals to remote- or hybrid-learning students.
"Green" means that all students in the flexible attendance plan will be in school all day, every day. The district moved to the green model after reviewing COVID-19 statistics on the Harvey County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard, located at harveycounty.com.
The indicators — two-week infection rates and others — trended downward the past several weeks.
The move to green solves one of the lunch program problems — distributing meals to students in a hybrid learning model. Under that model, the student body is divided in two, with each group attending school in buildings two days a week while attending
"The reason this is so tricky is that all of the lunches, for all of our students, will be free," Van Rankin said. "Which is great, but when you think about it logistically, but when you serve your remote students or your hybrid students, they can only get five lunches a week."
Hybrid students throw a wrench in the works, so to speak. They will have two lunches in school, and three out of school, during the week. The trick, Van Rankin said, is distributing the right number of meals.
"You have to be sure you are not giving a hybrid kid (extra) meals," Van Rankin said. "That has been some of the hold up, to sort thorugh all the logistics."
About 23% of the student population is attending as remote-only students.
The first lunch distribution will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at Newton High School. On Sept. 23, the distribution time will change to 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Students will have to be present for the first distribution.
"We have to see the kid and parent the first time around," Van Rankin said. "We have to determine how many meals to give them. You will get a card that will show if you are remote or hybrid with the number of meals they can pick up each time."
In other business, the board:
• Received an update on the Public Buildng Commission and a possible request to raise the mill levy for the PBC to one full mill each from the city of Newton, Newton Recreation Commission and USD 373.
• Learned that learning logs will no longer be required for students attending remote classes, a change by the state board of education.
• Approved an additional $5,360 in repairs to the high school pool, the total project is still under budget.
• Approved increasing data for Kajeet Hotspots, devices offered to families attending school remotely who do not have a dependable internet connection. The renewal price is projected to be $131,460 for all 250 Smartspot devices on the complete unlimited data plan starting August 2021 for academic year 2021-2022.
• Accepted gifts for $600 in gift cards from Koerner Heights church and $590 in water bottles from Trinity Heights Church on behalf of Sunset Elementary.
• Accepted gifts of $1,200 in cards and dice from Kansas Star Casino and $900 in water bottles from So Shine Foundation on behalf of Slate Creek Elementary.
• Accepted a gift of $500 in water bottles from Charlesen insurance on behalf of South Breeze Elementary.
• Accepted a gift of $350 from the Newton Et Cetera Shop for the purchase of makerspace equipment on behalf of Chisholm Middle School.
• Approved a contract with the Newton YMCA to provide childcare during hybrid learning. The district can use SPARK funds to offer sliding scale scholarships for the YMCA Winning Edge program.