School buses delivering meals to East St. Louis students while they learn at home

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KTVI) – Yellow school buses are still making their daily rounds in Illinois, even if there are no students on board and the classes are all virtual. 

Around East St. Louis School District 189, the teachers are in their classrooms, and students are in their third week of classes online. Nevertheless, normal breakfasts and lunches usually provided by the school are still being offered. 

“Over 90 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch because of the income levels of the families,” says Arthur Culver, Superintendent Schools East St. Louis School District 189. “We have 26 buses that are delivering meals daily. They are also at the school sites, parents come in and pick up the food daily.” 

The district says it is providing free “Grab and Go meals” every school day to all students enrolled in the district while remote learning continues. Meal pickup is available at all schools as well as several community centers. The district says bus routes are “in areas not close to a school or center.”

“We still want to make sure our daily schedule mirrors what they would see if they were here Monday through Friday and that’s including breakfast or lunch,” said Maria Burton, principal at Dr. Katie Harper Wright Elementary School. 

Culver said classes will remain online for the first quarter, and the buses will be out at schools every morning until noon. 

“The buses show up around 9 o’clock because some families must come in early,” said Culver. “We want to make sure if they come early, these meals are here waiting on them. You know, kids need that nutrition; it’s so important so they can maximize their learning experience.” 

In addition to meal delivery, students are also getting technology help.

“We provide one-on-one Chromebooks to our students. We also have hot spots available to those students or families who do not have internet services,” said Burton. 

“At first when we started, there were a couple of issues,” said Ongelique Kidd, a parent liaison at Dr. Katie Harper Wright Elementary. “But we have navigated through those issues, and this is Week 3, and we’ve had a little over 90 percent log-in rate daily. That is a huge, huge accomplishment for the school.” 

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