Massena awaits word on school meal service

Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady says he’s still waiting to hear word on if they’ll be continuing to deliver breakfast and lunch to children 18 and under during the summer. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Every year, participants in the Massena Recreation Department’s summer recreation program receive breakfast and lunch served by the Massena Central School District.

This year there are still question marks about the meals — if they’ll just be feeding summer recreation participants if the program runs this year, of if they’ll continue providing breakfast and lunch to all children 18 and under in the district as they’ve been doing since schools closed their doors.

Since the closure of schools in mid-March, districts have been providing five days of breakfast and lunch each week to all children 18 and under in their district, and Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady said they’re still waiting on guidance about the future of the food distribution.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on May 21 that summer school will be conducted through distance learning this year to help reduce the risk of spread. Meal programs and child care services for essential employees will continue.

“We’ve looked at some possible plans for summer food, but some of the governor’s statements would lead us to believe that we would need to continue distributing food for all throughout the summer,” Mr. Brady told board of education members this week.

The district’s food service employees have prepared the meals and bus drivers have delivered them while students were spending their academic days at home.

“We’re trying to get clarification because our food service staff and bus drivers who are doing this work are 10-month employees who finish on the 15th (of June) like everybody else,” Mr. Brady said. “I understand there’s a need, but we also have some logistical issues to deal with, so we’re all seeking to get clarification on the governor’s statement on that issue.”

He said one of the questions that needs to be answered is whether the state would provide funding to keep the program going through the summer or if it would be an unfunded mandate with the district picking up the tab.

The school year for the Massena Central School District will officially end on June 15 following board of education approval. Mr. Brady said it was originally scheduled to end on June 26 before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every year the board approves the calendar for the next school year. Because the board does approve the calendar, we do have a change to the calendar,” he told board members.

The final date for the 180-day school calendar was arrived at following a meeting of regional superintendents and consultation with attorneys. Mr. Brady said they had not yet received guidance from the state Education Department or the governor.

The formula involves subtracting the number of spring break days, which students didn’t receive this year; the number of unused emergency days, which was three in Massena; and an unused staff development day.

“If you subtract those out, that brought us back to the 12th of June for us,” he said.

However, they also needed to consider the days when some students would be taking some Regents exams, while others would not be in school.

“June 15th was the day that met the formula, plus gave every school building the required 180 days. That’s pending if the governor were to come out with some further information. But I think all schools are now setting their last day,” Mr. Brady said.

Massena High School seniors were scheduled to celebrate their graduation on June 27. Now school districts are trying to come up with alternative ways to honor the graduates.

He said a meeting with regional superintendents and the county’s Public Health Department is scheduled for June 2 to discuss their options.

“We did receive some written guidance today from Public Health which gives us a kind of outline of what some of that might look like — here’s what virtual might look like, here’s what in-person might look like,” Mr. Brady said.

“Currently, what we have in place is we’re not supposed to have more than 10 people in a gathering. Those requirements by the governor still stand. We’re working with Public Health to try to find an answer to that,” he said.

He said they plan to provide “an event of some sort,” but they would prefer that it not be a virtual graduation.

“I think everybody’s committed to doing some form of in-person graduation, but with the CDC requirements that are expected to keep people safe,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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