Coronavirus infects school food distribution workers in NJ, KY

Teachers and volunteers in several school districts are falling ill with the coronavirus, putting students at risk of exposure through meal distribution programs that have continued while schools are closed.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a teacher and a meal distribution volunteer have both contracted the coronavirus, prompting school officials to send out a robo call to parents and staff on Wednesday.

The Paterson Times reports:

The teacher worked at the School of Education and Training (SET) at John F. Kennedy High School, according to a robo call issued by superintendent Eileen Shafer on Wednesday. The meal distribution volunteer helped to hand out food to students while school is out at the Mighty Sons of God at 77 Park Avenue.

People who worked at the Mighty Sons of God to distribute food are urged to quarantine themselves for two weeks and call a doctor if Covid-19 symptoms such as dry cough, shortness of breath, and fever develop.

A student at John F. Kennedy High School previously tested positive for the coronavirus, while two teachers in the district’s Great Falls Academy and an instructional aide at Rosa Parks High School also have the virus.

Officials told the Times a total of 102 Paterson residents are now infected, including three people who have died.

It’s a similar situation in Kentucky’s Fayetteville schools, where officials have halted the district’s food distribution after a transportation employee involved with the program tested positive, the Lexington Herald Leader reports.

The district was distributing food to students at school bus stops, but Superintendent Manny Caulk put an end to the program Wednesday.

“In the face of these unprecedented circumstances, our bus drivers and monitors willingly volunteered to serve in this new role to ensure that students who depend on meals at school still have access to food,” Caulk wrote in a letter to families.

“They are unsung heroes and we are all indebted to them for their leadership during these times.”

Caulk contends the risk of spreading coronavirus to students is low, but “we believe the safest course of action is to close our bus depots.”

Instead, parents can now stand in crowded lines to pick up student meals at schools.

“We ask that those receiving meals practice social distancing and stand six feet apart while waiting in line,” Caulk wrote.

District officials were already planning to shut down the service on March 30 for spring break, and Caulk said they will re-evaluate the meal service next month.

“We will work with community partners to revisit the best way to continue serving meals for children while also protecting the health and safety of our employees and families,” Caulk said. “We will communicate plans for providing meals beginning the week of April 6 as soon as they are finalized.”

This piece was written by Victor Skinner on March 26, 2020. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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