School bus

The spread of the coronavirus will keep Madison County students out of school until at least April 13. And meals delivered for students will be halted after Friday to protect employees and limit the spread of the global contagion.

Meanwhile, spring break is April 6-10 and there will be no online classes for the week.

On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp banned gatherings of more than 10 people to help contain COVID-19. That means that the meal preparations can’t continue at the high school cafeteria, where more than 10 people were working.

Superintendent Michael Williams said meals will be prepared for the remainder of this week from the high school, Ila, Comer, Hull-Sanford and Colbert elementary schools.

The superintendent wrote to school staff members Monday, informing them of the changes.

“In an effort to take appropriate precautions, we will have our nurses check the temperature of those working and distribute gloves and masks, we will also only have three cafeteria workers per school and two bus drivers on the bus,” he said. “My heart aches and I am sad to report this will be last week of meal delivery for the time being. We are looking into the possibility of a meal pick up plan, but do not have anything scheduled as of now. No meals will be prepared for the week of spring break. I appreciate the efforts by so many to provide our students with food, however, I must consider the safety of our staff and community. This infection has spread rapidly.”

He told teachers they could not get into the facilities now, since they have been disinfected and he doesn’t want any risk of contamination. Extra curricular activities are also canceled until April 13.

The superintendent urged staff members not to follow the meal routes this week to see their students.

“I also realize that you would like to see your students, please do not assemble a caravan or follow buses along the meal delivery route,” he said. “This will increase traffic and increase the risk of accidents. You could use other avenues to check on your students. I know you miss their smiling faces but until this situation declines we must take appropriate measures.”

Williams said the situation with coronavirus is serious and he urged people to listen to the warnings.

“The severity has heightened for sure recently,” he said prior to Kemp’s address. “We really hope people are taking precautions and staying in.”

But he said feels terrible for all the people struggling in this moment.

“There’s just so much uncertainty, so much up in the air,” he said. “I feel for the parents who have no childcare. I feel so bad for our students, and, of course, for those who are sick.”

Williams said the nutrition and transportation departments have been hard at work these past two weeks preparing meals for students. He praised their efforts, saying they have done a tremendous job. He noted that the staff prepared 4,200 meals last week, with the 780 meals prepared Tuesday, which had increased to 1,305 by Friday.

Williams says there’s a lot these days that’s heartbreaking, but he added that some things are heart-warming, too. He noted the care the Madison County community has for its kids is very evident. He said the sheriff’s office and fire departments have been helpful. He said volunteers have shown great effort, and he said school employees have stepped up in a tough time.

“Our staff has just been outstanding working through this difficult time and still providing an opportunity for kids to learn.

He said written materials were provided for students who don’t have Internet access. He added that those students shouldn’t worry about being punished in any way for not being able to be online, that accommodations will be made to help them with missed material.

“This is a strange time and we want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Williams, adding that grades and tests shouldn’t be another point of stress in a stressful time.

Williams said teachers and administrators are very present online with the students, helping them learn, while providing company and receiving it as well.

“Our administrators and teachers are sharing videos, reading stories and, of course, working through Google Classroom. “I’m really pleased with how the staff has responded. I know it’s a challenge for everyone.”

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