When Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Saturday that schools statewide would close for at least two weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Harnett County Schools system suddenly faced unchartered territory.
HCS serves breakfast and lunch to thousands of students every day who now must stay home for the foreseeable future. Many of these students rely on the school system for meals during the week and backpack programs help supplement the need on weekends.
Administrators on Monday pledged to keep providing meals to students during the current classroom hiatus and called on the community to help in the effort. Starting on Monday, food can be picked up at the following locations between the hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Angier Elementary, Boone Trail, Coats Elementary, Johnsonville Elementary, Harnett Primary and South Harnett.
HCS released a meal survey out on all social media platforms to get an idea of how many meals will be needed during the close of school.
“Our child nutrition department is currently working on a food distribution plan that will start on Monday, March 23,” HCS Public Information Officer Natalie Ferrell said. “We are asking our community partners to work directly with school principals on providing needed supplemental food support for students during the entire school closure.”
More than half of all HCS students received free or reduced meals during the 2019-20 school year. The current plan established designated locations across the county where parents can pick up meals during the week.
“Students are still able to eat,” said Ferrell. “Any child 0-18 will be able to eat. We will still have lunch.”
HCS plans to pay certified staff such as custodians, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants for the next two weeks until health officials reassess the current crisis moving forward. Gov. Cooper stated during his Saturday announcement that all employees would be paid during the closure.
“There are a lot of those folks who will go into work,” Bill Morris, HCS Board of Education member, said. “Someone has to be there to cook meals for the children in these schools. Maintenance and housekeeping can get in there and do that annual stuff that they don’t have the chance to do every day.”
HCS currently is under its spring break with Monday being an optional workday for all staff.
“Our principals and department heads will contact staff with specific site and department staffing needs,” said Ferrell.
The Harnett County Health Department reported three positive cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon.
Eliot Duke can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2038.