ROCKPORT – Students are not in classrooms, for the time being, although they are studying remotely and talking on the phone with their teachers. So, why are we seeing those big yellow buses with their flashing lights on the street and roads? There’s good reason, as school districts begin the job of making sure their students get their breakfast and lunch.
On March 19, the buses, freshly disinfected, were lined up near the cafeteria at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport. That is nutrition-central for both the Five Town CSD, which oversees Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, and School Administrative District 28, which manages K-8 schools in Camden and Rockport. It was the first day of meal production for the home-bound students in Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport and staff members were ready for action.
And though it is a stressful time for everyone, staff members were taking on the task with smiles. Students are encouraged to sign up week by week, and the schools are sending out contact information (see sample sign-up sheet at right)
Deb McIntyre, assistant superintendent for SAD 28 and the Five Town CSD, said the buses made their first meal run on Wednesday, March 18, with lunches prepared in the Camden Hills Regional High School kitchen.
On March 18, the buses delivered education materials and equipment to the students, making a dry run in preparation for the March 19 meal deliveries. As well, the school libraries are sending books to students who request them (See separate story).
“Yesterday were all the computers, and things that children left behind,” said bus driver Rick Catalano, who was ready in the driver’s seat, for today’s distribution.
“Our school nutrition folks are doing that preparation,” McIntyre said. “Currently this week we had a sign-up form that we sent as a link to parents. The sign-ups need to be done on a weekly basis.”
Lunches and breakfast are free and will be provided every day. Deliveries are made beginning after 9:30 a.m., so breakfast will be for the following morning.
The food is not necessarily items that would appear on the regular school lunches.
“For this period of time we’ve created a menu for next week,” she said. “We are looking at the inventory we had and looking at things that could be frozen in case they couldn’t get to eat it today. We are trying to be pretty mindful of what those meals included.”
McIntyre said it was all hands-on-deck to load the buses.
“We had our nutritionists and some custodians,” she said. “For the deliveries, it is usually the driver and a helper. We deliver the meals right to their door. We are also dropping off books and learning materials.”
The buses service Camden/Rockport school students, as well as Hope, Appleton, and Lincolnville. Luce Transportation is providing their buses for runs in the latter towns, as they normally do.
McIntyre said the drivers are the regular bus drivers for those routes.
“What was really great is that they were able to help organize the order in which those deliveries would occur,” she said. “It went smoothly except we did have a couple of run-ins with dogs. We’re trying to give families a general idea of the timeframe we’ll be out delivering.”
McIntyre said delivery of food to them has not been a problem, but the numbers of deliveries for this first week were fairly small.
“We expect those numbers to grow,” she said, “but we are not anticipating a problem with food deliveries to us.”
Ben Luce, who owns Luce Transportation, the school bus company that tends to Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville routes, is going the extra mile, literally, to get meals to students who live at the end of half-mile driveways.
“They need them,” he said.
Next week, Hope and Appleton are starting their meal deliveries to K-8 students and Luce will be helping with that separate venture. He knows that students in some remote homes in his towns depend greatly on the school meals.
Normally, those students would be at the end of the driveway, waiting for the daily school bus to arrive to take them to school. These days, the bus drivers are going to the house. Luce is taking the meals in his van to those houses, “the places where you can’t take a bus.”
Reach Lynda Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657