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Hawkins students getting homework along with free lunch during COVID-19 closure

Jeff Bobo • Mar 18, 2020 at 8:45 AM

CHURCH HILL — They might start calling school lunch in Hawkins County this week “Really Happy Meals” because the school day lasts only as long as it takes for the lunch lady to hand food in through the car window.

On Monday, all Hawkins County schools, as well as Rogersville City School, announced they would be closed through March 31 at the recommendation of Gov. Bill Lee to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But the kids still need to eat lunch, and Church Hill Elementary was one of seven Hawkins County schools that began operating a drive-thru school lunch service Tuesday.

Bulls Gap, Mooresburg, Clinch, Hawkins Elementary and Surgoinsville Elementary are also providing drive-thru lunch for the rest of this week. No paperwork is needed, but every child who eats must be in the vehicle when they come pick it up.

Today’s menu at Church Hill Elementary included a bacon cheeseburger, potato wedges, fresh veggies, grapes and milk. This “Really Happy Meal” also came with prizes — a box of crayons, a notebook and pencil for each child.

“This shows the level of love and care”

But this extra week off isn’t going to be all fun and games for students or school faculty and staff. Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News on Tuesday that teachers were using Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare home lessons.

“Teachers at all Hawkins County schools are preparing online and printed packet resources for our students,” Hixson said. “These resources can be used in our students’ homes, with the hopes of keeping our students current with their learning. We want our students ready to hit the ground running upon their return.”

Hixson added, “I can’t say enough about our teachers, our administrators, support staff, nutrition, maintenance and health staff during this time. Our staff knew this time might come, and their preparation and dedication to our students is evident in all the work performed behind the scenes. This shows the level of love and care our staff has for our students, especially during these uncertain times.”

Church Hill Elementary Principal Hope Malone said her staff is hoping to prevent students from falling too far behind during these extra off days.

“We are working on getting our Google classroom set up and working on getting those resources online for those boys and girls who are home and can get to (internet service) and practice working on those skills,” Malone said.

How are you getting lessons to the students?

Malone: “We actually sent home packets of work (Monday) that looked at their skill deficits. We sent home information that they can be working on during this time to catch them up. Some of those boys and girls we've put some stuff together to kind of push them a little bit further. We've sent packets of review materials, and then if they have internet access they can get on Google Drive and get those resources as well.”

How are you getting lunches to the students?

Malone: “The cafeteria staff from Mount Carmel and Church Hill Elementary are working to set up a drive-thru to hand out lunches. Parents drive up and we hand it out to them. And then we also have pencils, crayons and notebooks for those boys and girls if they need those as well.”

How are you preparing for the return to school on April 1?

Malone: “We're also working tomorrow (Wednesday) as well. We're going to be cleaning our classrooms. We're going to be getting all of the surfaces wiped down, making sure everything is clean.”

Church Hill Elementary mom Cassandra Albright brought four youngsters to pick up lunch Tuesday at CHES.

How are the kids dealing with their days off?

Albright: “They're OK. They're doing their homework.”

I'm sure they don't mind.

Albright: “No they don't mind at all. I'm out of school until the 31st, too.”

So how are you keeping them busy?

Albright: “We're doing our school work and we're going to do some art projects and stuff.”

Did you have plans for next week since they were going to be off for spring break anyway?

Albright: “No. I had school (which is now canceled). We'll figure out something.”

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