Rucker Elementary School and other campuses across Prosper Independent School District started making sure last week that students had continued access to food and technology by handing out Chromebooks and lunches.
Families picking up either of those items were encouraged to stay in their vehicles as school district staff members handed out necessary supplies that had been organized inside the building.
The initiatives were meant to provide the same continuity of service students receive in person, said Greg Bradley, Prosper ISD assistant superintendent for business and operations.
The district will rely on of Google Classroom, a platform created by the tech company that manages online courses, Bradley said.
“We use Google Classroom every day that we have school anyway, so this is a good thing for us. This is a system that our students are very familiar with,” he said.
By March 18, Rucker Elementary School had already distributed over 200 Chromebooks, Bradley said.
“I don’t think any of us envisioned we would be doing this two weeks ago, but that’s one of the great things about working in the school district, is that the people that we have, our teachers, have spent the last two days preparing online instruction, so we’re doing something we’ve never done before. But in a 48-hour time period, it’s been awesome to see how our teachers and campus administrators have stepped up to the challenge.”
Local nonprofits and churches helped the school district with distributing lunches on March 16 and 17.
The district used that time to organize a plan of action, Bradley said.
“We’re certainly pleased that they’re supporting students at this time, it just took us a little time to ramp up and figure out how exactly we wanted to deploy it,” he said.
Collaboration among staff is essential, said Rucker Elementary Principal Shelly Spears.
“Our PISD and Rucker family always come together in times of need. We are stronger together,” she said.
The district will continue to receive the food it needs to feed students, Bradley said.
“From the food standpoint, our food-service provider is still receiving all of the food that they need through our suppliers and through the Texas Department of Agriculture,” he said. “With these disaster declarations that the state has issued and the federal government has issued. that kind of opens the gates for more food to come in.”
For food distribution, the district relies on Southwest Foodservice Excellence, a national company that specializes in providing meals for grades K-12.
Area Operations Director Tracey Marcum said the COVID-19 outbreak brings different challenges to the food-service industry than other disaster emergencies.
“I’ve fed people during floods. I’ve fed people during wildfires. We’ve done shelter in place, lockdown for tornadoes. This is the first time any of us in the industry have experienced something like this,” she said.
While the company has to meet a balance between making nutritious meals, health and safety and meeting multiple state and federal emergency guidelines to serve each community, it can also use its national network of food distributors to help any area, Marcum said.
“You have to really be organized and concentrate on what’s most important,” she said. “The most important thing is we’re going to feed every kid that shows up, we’re going to figure it out.”