These past 18 months have included a nonstop discussion on health and safety, mask mandates, surface and hand sanitizer, and of course, social distancing. Like it or not, each of us has been a part of that conversation, be it in our parishes, workplaces, extracurricular activities, and our own homes.
One aspect that has not received the coverage it deserves has been in logistics, hoop-jumping, sleepless nights, and countless hours that have gone into meals for students. Not only for those in our schools, but those at home, and in our neighborhoods. Our Bright Futures Fund educators, staff, and principals of Our Lady of Hope and Holy Cross, have gone above and beyond ensuring that meals have been continuously provided to students and their siblings from the beginning of quarantine, across the summer, and throughout this past school year.
“When told last March we would not be going back to school after spring break, my first thought was “How will the children be fed?” - Lillian Klien, office manager who oversees Our Lady of Hope and Holy Cross.
Her thinking was spot on. Ninety percent of Bright Futures Fund students arrive daily for both breakfast and lunch provided by our schools. Many of those students additionally receive their supper as well through a partnership with Upper Room.
As the coronavirus landed in our city and neighborhoods, our schools were restricted to online learning by City mandate from Spring Break, lasting to the end of our 2019 schoolyear. Just because we were not meeting in our buildings did not mean that they sat empty and our teams went on hiatus. Faculty and staff at both Our Lady of Hope and Holy Cross immediately began applying for grants to purchase food ingredients and worked tirelessly organizing food distribution to keep the children in our community fed.
“When Barbara Dean, the principal of Holy Cross, sees an obstacle she will literally drive a school bus through it,” Shelly Henn, incoming Principal of Holy Cross vividly (and accurately!) describes.
The Our Lady of Hope campus became a community resource center for students, families, and the whole neighborhood over the summer via the “Giving the Basics” program. This program operated outside of the “SNAP” program and acted as an additional supplement, providing families the basics for everyday life.
Our Lady of Hope also offered food and resources via the “Seamless Summer” program, providing two meals plus a snack each day of the week for our children. In addition to those three programs, the team applied for two USDA programs, allowing access to supplies of frozen meat, dairy products, along with fresh fruit and vegetables. These resources were completely free to anyone who arrived at our school and requested them, no questions asked.
Drive a school bus through it they did!
Adding and assisting with the effort, the leadership at Bright Futures Fund made it possible to serve our greater Kansas City community beyond our student body and further identify our schools and parishes as a safe haven for all.
“The inherent difference of this year comes down to procedures, like mask-wearing and hand washing. Luckily, procedures are not new to kids; they are used to walking in lines and having assigned seating for lunch. Overall, it only took a couple of weeks for the students to get into a new routine,” disclosed Lillian Klein.
Our procedures followed all CDC advice: social distancing, mask-wearing, cohort groups, hand sanitizing stations, and routine sterilization of desks and surfaces. Drinking fountains were replaced with bottled water via a grant, along with sensors added to sinks, toilets, and hand dryers to create a touchless environment inside our buildings.
Daily, our students are greeted before entering the building, temperatures are taken, and one by one, they enter the building and to their classrooms. As the day comes to a close, students are dismissed and each is taken individually to their parents, guardians, or older siblings, who meet them outside our buildings. These additional safety measures have certainly contributed to the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff, and are expected to continue after the pandemic.
By Kendra O'Sullivan
How you can help!
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