Area schools managing operations and food distribution responding to extended closings

WB-RC and W-P announce changes to their meal service schedules


OGEMAW COUNTY — With Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” executive order, which in part mandates an extension of school closings until no earlier than Monday, April 13. Area school districts are working to adapt to the evolving needs of the community, as well as considering the consequences of the extended hiatus in education hours. 

Both West Branch-Rose City Area Schools and Whittemore-Prescott Area Schools are continuing to offer meal distribution for area students and have made additions and alterations to their distribution schedules. 

W-P Superintendent Joe Perrera said the school district will continue to drop off the same amount of food at the same locations during the same times as it has been since the shutdown, however, it will be doing so two days a week instead of five in order to limit the amount of interpersonal contact among families and those handling food distribution. 

“We want to keep our kids and families safe, and also the people who come in to pack lunches safe as well,” Perrera said. 

W-P will now be distributing food on Tuesdays and Fridays at the following times and locations: 

11 a.m. — Rosati’s Marketplace parking lot in Prescott

11:30 a.m. — 3 County Club in Prescott

12 p.m. — Ogemaw District Library in Prescott

12:30 p.m. — Whittemore United Methodist Church

Additionally, the school district held a food giveaway for the community at the W-P Elementary on Thursday, March 19, in which it distributed 14,600 lbs of food provided by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Perrera said approximately 400 boxes of food — including frozen meats, vegetables, fruits, canned goods and breads — were given away within two and a half hours.

Perrera said the giveaway would not have been possible without the help and organization of volunteers, particularly Lealla Gawne, who runs the W-P SMILES program.

“She gets far less credit than she deserves, and a lot of families would go hungry without her help,” Pererra said. 

WB-RC Superintendent Phil Mikulski said the school district will continue to distribute food for area students from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the pickup/dropoff line at Surline Elementary and from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the exterior cafeteria doors at the Rose City School. 

Additionally, WB-RC announced two food distributions at outlying areas of the school district to help ensure student access to meals, the first of which took place Monday, March 23 and the second scheduled for Monday, March 30, Mikulski said. The school district is providing up to seven days of food for each child up to age 18. Children need not be present for pickup. 

The March 30 food distributions will take place at the following times and locations:

10 a.m. — Goodar Twp Hall, 6412 S. Branch Road

10:40 a.m. — Rose Twp Hall, 3380 Lupton Road

11:10 a.m. — Klacking Twp Hall, 405 N. Campbell Road

11:45 a.m. — Lake Ogemaw Clubhouse, 2770 Choctaw Trail

12:30 p.m. — Clement Twp Hall, 1498 M-30

12:55 p.m. — Edwards Twp Hall, 3601 Wickes Road

“We wanted to make sure that all of our students and families had access to the food program, so Janice Phillips, our food service director, and Jason Hall, our transportation director, put together a route that would serve different areas in our district,” Mikulski said. 

WB-RC distributed 1,000 meals last Friday alone, Mikulski said. 

“We anticipate those numbers to rise, especially now given the governor’s order to continue to stay home,” Mikulski said. 

Perrera said the W-P Board of Education has not yet had the opportunity to meet following the governor’s Monday announcement and the school district is currently anticipating the suspension of events such as prom and commencement. 

“We’re going to continue to do the best for our kids,” Perrera said. “All long-term plans are on hold right now. Our main areas of focus right now are the immediate concerns of the building closure and sanitizing of the building. The third marking period, that’s obviously a concern. We’re going to close out the third marking period, but beyond that, a lot is up in the air right now.” 

Not including days for which spring break was scheduled, Mikulski said WB-RC students will have lost 13 days of instruction if school resumes on April 13. However, he said state testing has been suspended for the year following the waiver of a federal mandate. Students will be able to make up some instructional hours during times which would have otherwise been spent on standardized testing. Even so, he said much remains unknown about how the shutdown will affect the remainder of the school year. 

Perrera said the community’s understanding of and assistance throughout the school district’s management of this difficult situation has been greatly appreciated. 

“I appreciate everyone's understanding through this time, and I ask for your continued support and your continued patience as we maneuver through these uncharted waters,” Perrera said.  

Both Mikulski and Pererra said their school districts are considering the implications of the extended shutdown, as well as potential alternatives regarding instruction if the school closings continue. Governor Whitmer stated in a press release schools need to have the freedom to manage their respective situations in the best ways they see fit.

“Each district should determine what services and supports they are able to provide during this unprecedented crisis,” Whitmer said in the release. “Many are focusing on meeting basic needs and are working around the clock to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry students. Other districts have the ability to provide more learning support as a result of one-to-one technology initiatives. I am in awe of the work that school employees are doing to support their kids and I applaud their efforts.”

Furthermore, Whitmer acknowledged the fluid nature of the crisis and the potential for continued delay of education. 

"As you know, the situation has changed rapidly over the course of the past ten days,” Whitmer said. “We do not know what the future will hold, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring the needs of our students, parents, and families are met as we navigate these uncharted waters. I will be working in the coming days to ensure our seniors graduate and that no child is held back as a result of our ability to provide face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 school closure. To teachers, administrators, and support staff — I thank you for stepping up and helping your students and families. To students and especially parents, hang in there. We will get through this."


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