Provo City School District officials are working to ensure students continue learning — and eating — during school closures mandated by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
District officials announced in an email to parents and on the school district website that “previously designated high-need schools” will serve free breakfast and lunch to all students on weekdays. These schools are Amelia Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Independence High, Provo Peaks Elementary, Provost Elementary, Provo High, Spring Creek Elementary, Sunset View Elementary and Timpanogos Elementary.
Other schools in the district, including Timpview High and Dixon Middle School, will have meals available for eligible students based on financial need.
After April 3 and through the remainder of the closure — which will last for the remainder of the school year — only nine high-need locations will continue to serve free meals. Those schools were chosen based on demand and availability of staff, the district website says.
One of the schools continuing to provide meals is Provo Peaks Elementary, a Title I school with many students who live below the poverty level.
Provo Peaks Elementary Principal Mark Burge said he’s been pleased with the impact of the meal distribution thus far. “On a good day, we serve about 150 breakfast meals, and our lunch counts are higher at about 250 meals served, even in the rain,” Burge said. “We know this is a difficult time for families, and the district wants to make sure that all students have at least two meals a day.”
Burge also praised the efforts of school staff members who make the meal distribution possible, saying the transition at Provo Peaks has been very smooth.
“Our district and school lunch staff have been amazing. They put together the menus in a short amount of time and work extremely hard each day to get these meals ready,” he said. “It really is a team effort to support the families in our community. It is especially fun to see the smiling faces of students.”
Joaquin neighborhood resident Erin Farnes, whose children attend a school in the Provo City School District, said knowing the meals are available has been a relief, especially as her husband’s job has been put on hold during the pandemic.
“From a parent’s perspective, it is a very nice support to have when there’s so much uncertainty,” she said. “The people handing out the meals are so kind and friendly, and even though I am struggling with how often I might or might not go and get meals, I don’t feel any judgment or misunderstanding from them.”
The school district also provided Chromebooks for all students who do not have access to a device with internet connection at home so they can participate in online learning activities and regular virtual instruction.
“District teachers and staff are working to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students,” the online announcement says.
Burge said the teachers at Provo Peaks, including not only regular classroom teachers but those who teach specialty subjects such as music and keyboarding, put a lot of effort into their lesson plans.
“Our goal in this difficult situation was to make sure we connect with students as much as possible,” Burge said. “We know that live, face-to-face interactions are so important for students and teachers to create a sense of ‘normalcy’ in their learning.”
Though not all students will be able to access live, virtual class sessions, Burge said teachers have created digital lessons students can access at any time.
“I have seen several of the face-to-face classes and the students were very excited to see their friends and teachers,” he said. “Making personal contact, making our day as normal as we can and giving kids resources to access is our goal.”
Joaquin neighborhood resident Cameron Child Waqa said her children’s teachers are doing an amazing job with their online lessons, and that remote learning ensures her children stay safe.
“I love having my kids home more,” Waqa said. “I’m so grateful they cancelled when they did — I was feeling worse and worse about sending the kids to school each day and was debating signing them up for the district’s online learning program. Great job to our faculty and staff!”