Grandview Heights Schools ready for hungry students

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
Kyle Mahan, Grandview Heights Schools food services director, is pictured Aug. 6 at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School. Grandview students can pick up breakfast and lunch every school day at Edison/Larson, even while learning from home.

Just because Grandview Heights students will learn from home to start the 2020-21 school year doesn't mean they can't enjoy a classic school lunch every day -- and breakfast, too.

Grandview Heights Schools plans to open the school year Monday, Aug. 17, with a full remote-learning structure in place, but students still may pick up both lunch and breakfast meals every school day, offered by the district's food-services department.

Protocols also are in place to ensure student safety if and when the district pivots to a hybrid-learning model or allows students to return to full in-person instruction in school buildings.

"Our setup for remote learning will be very similar to what we had in place in the spring," food-services director Kyle Mahan said.

All students who want to purchase lunch and breakfast will pick up their grab-and-go meals at one location: Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, 1240 Oakland Ave.

"We'll be open ... from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each school day for students to pick up their meals," Mahan said. "In the spring, we were open a couple days a week and students would come and pick up meals for multiple days."

Lunch and breakfast will be offered for all students in grades K-12.

For students who pay full price, the cost of lunch is $3.25 for K-8 students and $3.75 for high school students, Mahan said. Breakfast will cost $2.50 for all students.

"You don't have to sign up for both breakfast and lunch," he said. "You can just choose to get lunch."

Students who qualify for reduced-cost meals will pay 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch, Mahan said. Students who qualify for free meals will not be charged.

During the period of remote learning during the last two months of the 2019-20 school year, only about 10 students picked up meals each day, on average, he said.

"I don't know if people didn't think about it being available, didn't know about it or just chose to have their children eat meals prepared at home," Mahan said. "Fewer students were coming in then we expected."

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, when school was in normal session, the district served between 350 to 400 meals across the three school buildings each day, he said.

Mahan said he plans to create a preorder system for families so they can pay for their students' meals in advance, and also to help make it easier to determine how many meals food service staff will need to prepare each day.

"It's a balancing act, because we want to make sure we have nutritious meals available for every student who comes in, but we also don't want to waste food," he said.

When possible, leftover food is donated to First Community Church's Heart to Heart food pantry, Mahan said.

All seven food-services staff members will be on duty when the school year begins, but that number could be reduced if the number of students who pick up meals remains low, he said.

Students will have three options for their main course for lunch: a PB&J sandwich, chef salad or another sandwich choice, such as a sub, Mahan said.

"We won't be dealing with any sort of hot food," at least at first, he said.

The grab-and-go lunches also will include three-fourths of a cup of raw veggies, a half-cup of fruit (a cup for high school students) and a carton of milk.

If the district decides to pivot to a hybrid model, students would attend class in their school building for half of each day, either in the morning or afternoon depending on the first letter of their last name. They would spend the other half of each day engaged in learning activities at home.

Although they would attend school at the buildings, they would not eat lunch there under the hybrid model, Mahan said.

Students who attend in the morning would pick up lunch to take home with them and breakfast for the next day, he said. Students who are in the building during the afternoon would pick up a lunch to eat the next day before they come to school, he said.

When he presented the framework for a hybrid model last month to the school board, Superintendent Andy Culp said one of the biggest worries about bringing students back into buildings, even part time, is lunch.

"Obviously, you can't eat vlunch with a mask, but one of the ways to prevent the spread of COVID is to wear a mask," he said.

One of the advantages of using a morning/afternoon hybrid model rather than a framework in which students would have in-person instruction all day on two days of the week is that it "mitigates" lunch, Culp said.

When Grandview returns to full-day, in-person learning for all students, youngsters would not eat lunch in their school cafeteria, he said.

Instead, students would pick up a grab-and-go lunch while maintaining social distancing in the serving lines, then would eat their meals in assigned seats in their classrooms, Culp said.

Although students continue to have access to nutritious meals, they are losing something important by not having a regular lunch period, Mahan said.

"It's a chance to sit with their friends, socialize and unwind a bit from the school day," he said. "Students are no different from adults. They need a little break during their day."

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