SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
While students, teachers and most staff are hunkered down in their homes during the “Shelter in Place” mandate, there is a group of Seton Catholic Schools employees showing up to work, making sure students do not go hungry. Since March 18, foodservice workers across the 10 Seton schools have provided more than 100,000 meals to students.
On April 29, Seton Catholic Schools celebrated the approximately 50 workers who faithfully provide students with meals since the middle of March. Each worker received take-and-bake pizza so they could enjoy a relaxing meal with their own families.
The celebration coincided with the May 1, National School Lunch Day Hero, or Lunch Day Super Hero day, as Seton Catholic Schools likes to call it. The day is set aside to honor the efforts foodservice workers make in preparing healthy meals for America’s students, while adhering to strict nutritional standards, navigating student food allergies and offering services with a smile.
The Seton Catholic Schools foodservice workers distribute meals Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and provide students with enough food for the week. This is an important benefit for the families as many parents have lost their jobs during the “Shelter in Place” mandate and cannot afford to feed their children.
According to Gina Styer, communications manager at Seton Catholic Schools, administrators also surprised foodservice workers with balloons, certificates of recognition and handmade thank-you notes from students.
“This was a special honor for their selfless service to our students during the school closure and to mark the milestone of providing 100,000 meals since schools closed. They have been coming in weekly to ensure that our students have regular meals. Their service is a true testament to their commitment to our students and families.”
Styer said students and families are very appreciative of the meals, as they normally count on the help throughout the year while school is in session and without the help, some students would not have enough to eat.
“This is a service we are proud to provide,” she said. “While many staff are not in the school building regularly during the closure, our food service staff continues to come into the building regularly to ensure students are fed. We are grateful for their dedication they are demonstrating to students and families.”
With remote learning becoming the norm as schools are shuttered around the country, Seton Catholic Schools quickly realized that not all students could participate in classroom activities, as they did not have the necessary technology. Rather than have schoolwork suffer, Seton administrators conducted a technology survey among their school families to better understand where families needed support with devices and internet access as they begin remote blended learning on May 6.
“We took into consideration families with no devices, families with multiple school-age students and families without internet access,” said Styer. “Remote blended learning will combine teacher pre-recorded online lessons and online learning programs like Zearn, with their paper academic packet. Students will continue receiving printed academic packets as part of the remote blended learning program.”
To provide each student with needed technology, Seton began distributing Chromebooks on Friday, April 24, and concluded on Wednesday, May 6. In all, 1,000 Chromebooks were distributed along with 200 smart spots to ensure all students have access to the school’s remote blended learning program.
“Our families are very thankful that we are able to support them with technology to ensure that their children can continue learning during the school closure,” said Styer, who added that the Chromebooks and smart spots will be returned at the end of the school year.
Rather than use a live classroom experience such as Zoom, all lessons are pre-recorded for students. This enables students to access the assignments when the devices are available in the home based on the number of devices and number of individuals in the home utilizing the devices, said Styer.
“Not every student would be able to participate in a live class meeting at a certain time,” she said. “Recorded lessons encourage more student participation because students can watch a lesson at their convenience. Recorded lessons will be available for a week and teachers will be available to support students during office hours. All teachers are offering office hours during the school day so students and/or parents can connect with teachers.”
Styer is proud of the way teachers and staff have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure students do not suffer during this time.
“Everyone has stepped up during this critical time to ensure that learning and meal distribution continues,” she said. “It has been a team effort focused on collaboration and equity for our students and families every step of the way. The planning behind the scenes has been intense, but thoughtful, and has not skipped a beat since we began planning in January. Our teachers are engaged with their students and are constantly finding new ways to connect during distance learning. We’ve maintained a 98-percent engagement rate with our students and we’re so proud of that.”