Gadsden City Superintendent responds to community concerns regarding student feeding and Coronavirus protocol.
Good afternoon Gadsden community,
We are without a doubt facing one of the biggest crises we have ever faced as a community, let alone as a school system. As Superintendent, I want to make you aware of how we have progressed at addressing it. The coronavirus is now pandemic, meaning it affects people world-wide, and while I am personally concerned about it from that perspective, my focus is on what we can effectively do locally. I have communicated with my counterparts in Etowah County and Attalla. We have been in agreement about most, if not all matters regarding how to deal with this situation, including waiting until Monday, March 16th to close schools. When we reopen schools is out of our control!
Most of you are aware that we are relying on information from the Center for Disease Control(CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Alabama State Department of Education(ALSDE), the Alabama Association of School Boards(AASB), and of course, the White House. Opening schools on Monday allowed us to begin planning for the inevitable, and also allowed us to distribute meals to at least the 71% of our children who receive free and reduced meals. Since the ALSDE announced all absences would be excused, only about 20% of our student population was in attendance that day. For those who were, we fed them their regular meals, and upon dismissal, we gave each of them enough food for six additional meals. Overall, more than 6000 meals were distributed. Additionally, we distributed over 4000 food items to outside agencies with whom we partnered to assist with additional feeding opportunities.
We are cognizant of the fact not every child in attendance actually accepted the care package. Some may have felt embarrassed to be seen taking food home, some may not have felt the need for the food. In either case, The Gadsden City School System and its staff sought to not only yield to the laws as they relate to child nutrition, but to also show good faith in concern for the well-being of its children.
Planning during times like this is crucial, but it is my opinion it should not be spontaneous, and not be exclusive. That is why many of you are just getting a formal announcement from me. I respect all of your concerns, and I have communicated with several members of the Board of Education, which governs all of my actions, approves or disapproves of my recommendations, and assists in adopting policies under which we as a body are obligated to operate. I also want to recognize the other leaders in our community who have stepped up to address this issue. Many have asked “What can we do to help?” My answer has been the same for all: “Feed the children.” The school system does not have a monopoly on that. I cannot tell those willing where or how to help, that commitment is theirs, and we welcome the assistance in whatever form it is rendered.
Thank you to those who have already started serving meals, you know who you are, and you have posted information to make citizens aware of who you are, where you are, and when you are feeding. In as much as the school system is not obligated to feed during Spring Break, that is when we will most rely on our community partners. We will, however resume feeding after Spring Break. Details will be posted about that procedure. We will first do a survey to determine how many children will need or accept the meals we intend to provide. A staff made up of the school system’s twelve-month employees will handle the preparation and distribution of these meals.
I am wishing all of you the best during this very difficult time. Mrs. Reddick and I, to show our personal commitment, have made a financial contribution to support this effort. I would like to encourage others of you, if it is in your hearts and financial means, to get personal and consider helping out as well.