A week of change and anticipation… Elizabethton City Schools make change to feeding program

Published 1:10 am Tuesday, April 7, 2020

As a new week began, so did changes to the current Elizabethton City Schools feeding program that has been going on since schools were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students now will be able to pick meals two days a week instead of on a daily basis as on Mondays from 11:30 to 12:30 pm students will be provided with a hot meal for Monday and breakfast and lunch for Tuesday.
On Wednesday from 11:30 to 12:30 pm, students will receive a hot meal for Wednesday and meals for Thursday and Friday.
The move was necessary to help meet the mandate of Governor Bill Lee for Tennesseans and local officials who are trying to prevent the spread of the virus with Stay at Home directives.
“The transition to a two-day feeding program was a difficult decision because we wanted to preserve the feeding program as long as we could,” said Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour. “Feeding two days a week promotes social distancing and reflects Mayor Barnett and City Manager Estes’s guidance on staying home.
“We want to bring our students, families and our employees out the least amount possible.”
According to Dr. Gardenhour, the school system prepared and served 3,033 meals last week at three of the systems elementary schools.
There is a lot of anticipation going on this week all across the state as the State Board of Education announced that the Board will convene a special called electronic meeting April 9th at 2:00 PM CDT to enact emergency rules governing K-12 graduation requirements for Tennessee’s high school seniors in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.
No one is for sure exactly what to expect going forward and Thursday’s meeting may go a long way in deciding if school will resume for the current spring semester as all decisions in regard to whether schools will remain closed lie at the state level.
Dr. Gardenhour was asked if he had any insight into what could be the possible outcome.
“The decision about the spring semester are being made at the state level. A few things are working against students returning to school for this year. Mainly the increased restrictions on social distancing and an increasing number of people being affected by the virus,” Gardenhour said.
“I would like nothing more than to return to school safely because we had beat this virus this year. I think many folks out there would agree. It has put a halt for now on many events and traditions we hold dear in our community.
“With that being said, we are preparing now for what happens next month. We are taking guidance from TNDOE to try to make critical decisions on a daily basis,” Gardenhour continued.
The school director was also asked if plans are being made should the pandemic extend into a new school year.
“Looking forward to Fall 2020, it is not out of the realm of possibility that we may have a resurgence of COVID 19 (or a derivative) during the traditional cold and flu season with another break from school,” stated Dr. Gardenhour. “We are preparing to move more instruction online if need be.
“I have assembled a team from the central office who will be working on resources and services for families so we can create the best learning environment possible for staff, students, and families.”
With the school’s spring break observed the last week of March and students now diving deep into the materials provided to them by their teachers, Dr. Gardenhour was asked to give a review of how he felt the students and teachers have been responding to doing work from home.
“We have had a positive reaction to our distance learning programs so far,” Dr. Gardenhour commented. “Our teachers have been finding new ways to reach out to students because they truly miss all of them.
“Parents have stepped up to provide many resources to help students stay in contact with teachers. Many parents are taking the time to enrich students during this time.
“I have talked with parents who are baking bread, doing art/ science projects, reading, and keeping students on a regimented schedule. This will help when our students return to a regular schedule. Although students are home, many are exercising and doing chores to keep their homes clean and disinfected.”
As with many all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on challenges in all phases of life. No one knows what to expect next and many are having to adapt to changes in their jobs while many are facing losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Being a school director has also presented many new challenges that never have been faced during the modern history of America.
Dr. Gardenhour was asked how COVID-19 has impacted his leadership over the Elizabethton City Schools during this time.
“COVID 19 has been a learning experience,” Dr. Gardenhour said. “I am thankful for a dedicated and supportive faculty and staff during this event.
“I have spent a vast amount of time trying to keep up with changing trends while trying to weed out the noise. In the past few weeks, I have felt overwhelmed at times, but this is getting better because our students are doing well and teachers are working so hard to make this work for our community.
“Professionally, I have been going into the office every day to keep the school system moving forward,” continued Dr. Gardenhour. “I have been working to coordinate services and remain focused on our mission to improve learning for students. We were fortunate to have a plan early.
“We tried to keep it simple and hone our message around what was important. That was the safety and security of our students and faculty. I have loved seeing our families at meal delivery. I will always remember the bravery of our staff and the appreciation of our community.”

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