By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Schools closed on March 13 due to the COVID-19 concerns and since then further restrictions and closings have been put into place. The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough was quick to respond and devise initiatives for remote learning and effectively address concerns and questions.
One major concern was ensuring that students who relied on school lunches would have that basic need met during the closure.
When the program originally started, families signed up and picked up lunches at the locations where the food was being prepared – Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough or P. Brent Trottier Middle School in Southborough.
This was extended to all families in the school district facing immense challenges to offset the needs of their families. The remote lunch program is targeted to families that are in distress or under hardship.
District Director of Wellness Mary Ellen Duggan said the original pick up arrangement generated concerns of too many people and too much contact. An alternate plan was quickly formed to have school nurses deliver lunches directly to students at home by bus.
“It has worked out well,” said Duggan. “Using the buses eliminated contact and it helps to provide lunch to those families without transportation. The cafeteria workers are the unsung heroes behind the scenes; they are making and bagging all the lunches.”
Utilizing current bus drivers already familiar with the neighborhood routes assisted to smoothly facilitate the plan. Two lunches per student are delivered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Currently, there are 320 students (160 families) receiving this support.
“Every student who needs lunch will have it,” said Duggan. “It also keeps bus drivers working. Families are thankful for the program. The nurses have received thank you notes on the door, chalk messages on the driveway or a wave from the window.”
Another important intention of having the school nurses deliver lunches is the opportunity for a wellbeing check on students to ensure the family is healthy and has everything they need.
Duggan said that if there are specific students who have not checked in online for classes for a few days, nurses are notified and can check in on them.
The school district can also deliver technology devices to students as requested to access remote learning and deliver the Northborough Rotary Club’s Nutrition 68 food boxes to families every few weeks using the bus drop offs.
“It has been rewarding for the nurses as well as for the students to see a familiar face and connect from a distance,” said Duggan. “We are happy to be able to assist our community at this time.”
Duggan also wants to ensure that families know that if their circumstances change and they need the lunch program or access to student technology, they can sign up anytime and bus routes are adjusted accordingly. She noted that 17 new families were added in Northborough alone in the last week.
Information on the District’s remote learning platform NSBORO Connect 2.0, the lunch and technology programs, or to ask the nurse a question can be accessed on the District website at www.nsboro.k12.ma.us. Follow the Teaching/Learning tab to the NSBORO Connect 2.0 link.
Photos/courtesy Mary Ellen Duggan
A thank you note with a donated mask for the school nurse.
Miscellaneous thank you signs posted to greet nurses delivering lunches: