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Fresno Unified Superintendent: We're Feeding Kids And Their Kin During School Closures



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Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said Monday that kids will not go hungry during the school closures that have been caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic — and neither will their families.
Nelson told reporters that the district will do everything possible to continue providing nutrition to Fresno Unified’s 74,000 students, many of whom typically have received their breakfast and lunch at school.
“The nutrition of students remains a sacrosanct function across our nation,” he said during the mid-afternoon news conference, which was held outdoors on a loading dock of the district headquarters in downtown Fresno. “The last thing that will go down at Fresno Unified is feeding kids every day.”
And, Nelson said, the district has expanded the meals to families “for as long as we can,” he said. “We do not want to put up barriers for families getting the food they need.”

Meals At All Sites Tuesday

The school sites will again provide to-go meals — breakfast and lunch at the same pick-up — at all sites Tuesday, and then officials will look for patterns and determine whether sites can be consolidated and specific hours set up for meal pick-ups, he said.
Consolidation will help the district minimize the number of people handling the food, Nelson said.

Portrait of Bob Nelson

Supt. Bob Nelson

Some schools, such as Greenberg and Anthony elementaries, provided drive-through pick-ups so families could minimize social contact, Nelson said.
Government officials are recommending that people keep at least six feet apart and avoid large group gatherings.

No Pay For Substitutes

The superintendent had some bad news for substitute employees, who won’t be able to work during the closures, which means they won’t get paid. Full-time employees, on the other hand, will continue to receive paychecks during the closures.
Nelson said he would encourage part-timers to apply for unemployment, which the district will not contest, so they can have income while schools are closed.
He said that Wednesday’s update, in addition to information about school meals, will provide information about educational materials that parents can work on with their children while schools remain closed. Today was the first day of the closure, which is scheduled to continue through April 13.

FUSD Superintendent Bob Nelson speaks to the media at a Monday news conference. The gathering was held on a loading dock at the district’s headquarters to facilitate social distancing, which is recommended to reduce the spread of coronavirus. He is flanked by board president Keshia Thomas (left) and a district sign language interpreter (right). (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Weekly Updates Every Friday

The district will provide weekly updates every Friday, starting this week, he said.
Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the district’s Call Center at 559-457-3395, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nelson said.
Parents who need to pick up a child’s medication stored at school can go to the school Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Schools are otherwise closed to the public.

Extended School Year?

As to whether the school year would need to be extended to make up for the weeks when schools are closed, Nelson said that decision has not been made yet at the state level.
Nelson said the district is following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive for Californians over 65 and individuals with underlying health problems to remain home in isolation, and he urged district staffers to let their supervisors know if they fall in those categories.
Board president Keshia Thomas, who was also at the news conference, said she was gratified to hear so much support from employees at school sites and by email, who said they wanted to help in any way possible during the crisis.
“I am so happy to be part of the team here at Fresno Unified, to be able to manage this hard situation,” she said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email