Nearly all of Wyoming's school districts will remain closed in the coming weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many are scrambling to provide meals to the 37 percent of K-12 students in our state who typically rely on free or reduced-price school breakfast and lunch. Two districts on the Wind River Reservation have devised a plan to feed kids in need while complying with social distancing recommendations.
Starting Tuesday, March 17, all students enrolled in the Fort Washakie and Arapahoe school districts can expect meals to be delivered to their homes.
"All the coronavirus information that's out there says you want to keep people from gathering in one place. By doing this, we're taking the meals to the homes so there isn't a gathering going on," said Assistant Superintendent Kirk Schmidt of the Fort Washakie School District.
Both Fort Washakie and Arapahoe are provision 3 school districts under USDA guidelines, allowing them to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge. Schmidt said that on most days, 100 percent of Fort Washakie elementary and middle school students eat school lunch, and 60 percent eat school breakfast.
"Obviously during spring break and during the summer, parents have to make that accommodation. But this is unanticipated. And since we have the ability to do it, we're going to serve those kids," Schmidt said.
Fort Washakie and Arapahoe students can expect bagged lunches, plus breakfast for the following day, to be delivered to their doorsteps between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm each weekday while schools are closed. In addition to encouraging social distancing, delivering meals to students will ensure that families who don't have a way to get around aren't left behind.
"A lot of our parents won't have reliable access to transportation. So having a pick-up center [for meals], even if it's close to their home, might not be realistic for them to take advantage of," said Arapahoe Superintendent Roy Brown.
Brown added that since many Arapahoe students live in multi-generational homes, the district is being extra cautious about preventing exposure.
"As a community, we're probably more vulnerable to COVID-19. We have a vast number of elders who share homes with younger generations. So, the opportunities for transmitting the disease are pretty great," Brown said.
In addition to breakfast and lunch, students in the Arapahoe school district will receive a bag of non-perishable groceries with their Friday delivery. Brown said the district provides this service during the school year to help families through the weekend, and that including groceries in the delivery program might help families stay isolated in the coming weeks.
To opt-out of the delivery program or provide an updated home address, Arapahoe district families should contact the transportation department (firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-854-1092) and Fort Washakie district families should call the front desk (307-332-2380).
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at email@example.com.