Meal sites in Calcasieu Parish announced Monday they would be discontinuing feeding services for students 18 and younger in response to Gov. John Bel Edward's "stay-home-order." On Sunday evening, however, Beth Scioneaux, Louisiana Department of Education acting superintendent, sent an email addressed to "Superintendents and Charter School Leaders" stating the order does not refer to "those who serve essential functions, including those who work in public and non-public K-12 schools and in community-based operations, such as school meal sites."
The email advised districts to continue services until Friday while the governor's office works with the National Guard's project management team to develop "multiple, unique, alternate solutions for meal delivery moving forward." During this time, the email stated the governor's office would also be working to locate additional personal protective equipment for meal sites like gloves and masks.
The Calcasieu Parish School Board and Lake Charles College Prep partnered to provide thousands of meals to students through grab-and-go meals, drive-through service and bus delivery. Holly Holland, CPSB spokeswoman, said the district made its "difficult decision" to discontinue services as an increased effort to obey the social distancing regulations emphasized by Edwards.
"Our staff members were coming into close contact with dozens of people every day while providing meals. Some of our staff members are in that high-risk category when it comes to COVID-19, and that certainly factored into our decision," she said.
The move was similar to other districts across the state that are responding to a growing concern for staff and volunteers at sites, Holland said.
"This decision is not based on whether feeding children is a priority, as we can all agree that it is of the utmost importance. However, we must also consider the safety of all stakeholders involved."
Before deciding to discontinue, Holland said the district looked into purchasing pre-packaged meals that would reduce the number of employees needed to cook.
‘"We were unfortunately told by vendors that there was a 21-day backlog of orders," she said.
Sabrah Kingham, LCCP director of education, said the school did not receive Scioneaux's letter last night and made its decisions to "pause" services based on Sunday afternoon's order from Edwards. LCCP had been providing meal delivery on 11 bus routes throughout the city.
Kingham said the delivery was utilized more heavily than its campus drive-thru service but the number of volunteers needed to prepare the meals would have the site in violation of the order.
"The number of volunteers that it takes to get that ready in such a short amount of time, stay and follow all of the regulations … we had to pause it."
The charter school is "actively pursuing" participation in an emergency meal program that would deliver directly to homes. "We know our kids need to be fed," she said.