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Medford schools look at ways to provide education, meals to students

With schools shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, area educators are working to develop ways to keep students learning and healthy.

According to Pat Sullivan, district administrator of Medford Area Public Schools, all school staff will report to work on Monday and Tuesday March 23 and 24 with the goal of preparing curriculum that will include a combination of online and at home learning.

He noted that Medford is in a slightly better situation than other area schools because the district was already scheduled to be off this week due to spring break so if school reopens in April they would be only one week down.

In order to prepare, Sullivan said the district needs to know more about what kind of internet access families have in the district. The school is asking families to log into their Skyward family accounts -- this is the one used to check grades and add money to lunch accounts. There will be a form there parents are asked to fill out asking about access and also asking if families wish to participate in a free meal program.

Under the same grant that provides free meals to children age 18 and younger in the summer, the district will be able to provide free breakfast and lunches to students beginning on March 24.

Meals may be picked up between 8:30 a.m. and noon from either Medford Area Senior High School or Stetsonville Elementary School. Sullivan explains that people will receive a lunch for that day and a breakfast for the following morning.

He said that in addition, the district is looking at having other delivery points or even home delivery for those unable to come to the school buildings.

Initially, school was hoped to restart on Monday, April 6, but that have been extended through the possible end of the year.

“This is fluid, we will wait and see what comes down the pike every day,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that teachers will continue to provide education through the shutdown through a combination of packets, phone support, live chats and online options.

Support staff positions may be reassigned to other areas of the district such as helping with the deep cleaning of the school buildings or meal deliveries.

“We hope to keep everyone working during this time,” Sullivan said.

One of the biggest unknowns for the district is how long school will be closed, and what amount of days will have to be made up. The Department of Public Instruction on Monday afternoon issued a statement that district can apply to have the minimum hours of instruction waived due to the crisis.

The state is also seeking waivers to the mandatory standardized testing requirements.

Sullivan noted that unless conditions change, the school offices in each building will remain open with the ability to request transcripts and other services similar to during the summer hours.

In addition to Medford, both Rib Lake and Gilman schools are closed as a result of the state order with district staff in those schools working to provide continued learning options.