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Despite COVID-19 shutdown, school district to offer day-care for health care workers, lunches for students, other services

By James Grob,

Even though the Charles City schools are shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, the district is providing services to the community — counseling services, free lunches and child care for workers fighting the novel coronavirus.

“We know we have an obligation to support our front-line health care workers, who are fighting COVID-19, so we are doing everything we can to provide child care services to those essential personnel,” said Charles City Superintendent Mike Fisher. “Obviously, we’re thinking of health care workers, but we’re hoping it’s possible that other emergency service workers are eligible — from paramedics to firefighters to police.”

The district is working to provide emergency child care for medical professionals and emergency service personnel who are “on the front lines of fighting COVID-19.” Fisher anticipates that the day care, which will start next week, will be free of charge. More details will be available later this week.

“Kara Shannon is taking the lead on this,” Fisher said of the Washington Elementary principal. “We do have licensing through the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to run a child care center. We’re lining up employees.”

Fisher said a task force is still working to find out who is legally eligible for the service. Parents may need to prove eligibility and the child must be enrolled in the Charles City School District.

Although the details are still being worked out, the plan is to have the care center up and running by Monday, March 23. Space will limited, as the district anticipates just 60 open seats. Fisher asks that parents explore other child care options before coming to the school district.

“Hopefully you have a different plan for child care, but if you can’t find other places and you’re one of these eligible people, we’ll have this as a back-up plan for you,” he said.

The district also intends to implement a service similar to the the Summer Food Service program during the shutdown. The program will be take-home meals, distributed from the bus line at Washington Elementary School.

“The federal government has provided waivers for us to provide free ‘grab and go’ meals, and we will have those up and ready to go by Thursday,” Fisher said. “We will be providing meals to any of our families who need it, to provide food security.”

Food distribution will begin Thursday, March 19, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be available to all children 18-years old and younger, regardless of income level. The meals are “grab and go” to limit virus exposure. Patrons are asked to remain in vehicles, as this is a distribution site only.

“It will be for any of our kids who need it,” said Fisher, who said that although a child can’t come back more than once on the same day, there are no other restrictions.

Fisher said that although the district can’t do door-to-door delivery because of the risk of spreading the virus, it is exploring the idea of having mobile drop off places where there might be a high concentration of needs. A task force is still working on funding and other details.

Also, school district counselors and a leadership team task force are developing an appointment system so parents and students can ask to meet virtually with a school counselor.

“Our counselors and social workers have created a task force led by Marcia DeVore (Lincoln Elementary principal) and they’re creating a system where people can sign up if they want to talk to a counselor or social worker,” Fisher said. “We also have a lot of high school students who are doing senior planning, college planning, career readiness planning. We want to make sure that continues and the kids get what they need there.”

These meetings can be set up via phone or video conferencing for any PK-12 student or parent. The district said it is striving for a 24-hour response time for families to talk with a school counselor.

“Our staff is still working,” Fisher said. “They’re not at school, but we have all our staff working remotely.”

The district is also preparing online resources for families to use to talk about COVID-19 with their families. The plan is to have this up and operational by Thursday, with more details to be released before then.

Charles City Community Schools will continue with daily updates to the community for as long as there is news to share. Look for updates through text and email each day around 6 p.m. Anyone can sign up for the updates on the school district’s website.