By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school board pushed a decision on a gating criteria for a return to in-person instruction to next week as it continues to wait for feedback from the Brown County Health Department.
Following a discussion at their meeting Monday, Sept. 14, trustees unanimously tabled the gating criteria vote until a special meeting Monday, Sept. 21.
“What I recall from our last meeting, we would like some feedback from somebody in the public health arena,” said Board President Eric Vanden Heuvel. “As seven elected board members with very little background and experience, except for Dr. (Brenda) Warren, we were looking for someone to comment on it. And it feels like two weeks later, we are still in that same boat. Someone please comment, give us some opinion, so that we don’t feel like we are shooting from the hip.”
Superintendent Steve Murley encouraged the board to hold off a gating criteria decision on the proposed metrics presented by trustee Andrew Becker at last month’s meeting until after the county’s recommendations are received.
“My thought process was that we wouldn’t want to adopt a protocol that then a week or two from now we’re rolling back and changing to the county’s criteria,” he said. “We would be causing confusion, when we wouldn’t need to.”
Murley said the health department is developing a multi-metric model for school districts.
“They are very close to finishing that,” he said. “I was, perhaps, overly optimistic that we would have this last week and we’d be able to include it on today’s agenda and have a conversation about it. It is very likely, based on my conversations with the county, that we are going to have a model from them perhaps this week.”
While the board is hopeful it will receive the gating criteria recommendations from the county before then, many were adamant about making a decision next Monday regardless.
“If (we don’t get the information) by Monday, we still need to vote and determine what the plan is,” said Board Vice President Kristina Shelton. “We wait a week. That gives us six more days. If we don’t get anything, we figure out what way we are going to go.”
Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau requested a representative from the health department attend next week’s meeting to provide clarification on any recommendations.
“I think this is a perfect opportunity for the Brown County Health Department to come and discuss, explain, inform and empower our community,” she said. “I don’t know if they would be interested in coming, but I can’t imagine what would be in our best interest to try and explain the county’s decision making. They would do that the best themselves.”
Murley said he would ask for a representative to attend.
At this time, Murley said as far as he knows, the criteria from the county will be recommendations, not directives, so districts wouldn’t be required to adhere to them.
Free meal program going strong
With a virtual start to the school year, the district’s food service department already had plans to provide meals to its more than 21,000 students.
However, following an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in regards to offering all students meals for free, the team had a matter of days to change the process to offer free meals to all students in the Greater Green Bay area.
“We are very proud, because we are feeding our children,” said Lynette Zalec, director of food service. “We had to do a quick turn around for Green Bay. We were not told until Aug. 31 that we were able to feed our kids free.”
Under the program, the district is able to provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner to all children in Green Bay.
As of Monday, Sept. 14, Zalec said 9,876 breakfast meals, 9,907 lunch meals and 9,132 dinner meals have been served since the beginning of the school year.
“The first day was interesting,” she said. “The number of meals that people wanted was amazing. But the team that I have – we were ready. We knew that we had to have a plan in place.”
Meals are available at all district schools, with the exception of the Jefferson Head Start location, and Aldo Leonardo de Vinci, Red Smith and Wequiock locations only offer breakfast and lunch.
One significant change with the meal program this fall is it’s no longer drive-up service.
Meals are picked up within the school building, and masks and social distancing are required.
Zalec said it’s been a learning process, and the department has adapted to ensure all students receive meals.
Meals are offered at schools throughout the day at different times between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“We are changing times to adapt to the families,” she said. “We are working with volunteers and gathering them so we can reach out to the families that may be having issues getting meals. We don’t want anyone feeling uneasy about getting a meal. We are doing our best as a district reaching out to students and families.”
Taking it one step further, the department is moving forward with the purchase of two concession trailers to serve neighborhoods with transportation concerns.
Zalec said two hurdles the district is running into is a lack of understanding that meals are available to all Green Bay children, not just district students; as well as the worry by students about being penalized for leaving virtual class early or arriving late, because they went to pick up lunch.
Murley said there is no penalty for either of these instances.
More information on the Grab and Go Meal program can be found at foodservice.gbaps.org/school_nutrition_forward/meal_sites_2020-21.