Though schools across Arkansas remain closed through April 17, the Guy-Perkins School District has vowed to feed its students over spring break and until students return for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.

Administrators and counselors met at the school Monday to discuss what the coming weeks would look like for the district and also help prepare meals for students and other children in the district.

“We are doing our best to make decisions that will help care for all of our students, teachers, support staff, families and community,” Guy-Perkins Superintendent Joe Fisher said Monday. “We understand the extended school closure will create hardships for many of our families and that there are questions that need to be answered. We know that you would like answers today and we would like to give them to you; however, we want to make sure the information we provide is clear and accurate as we consider every possible option for our students.”

The school is considering how it will move forward with additional AMI (alternative methods of instruction) assignments following spring break.

In the meantime, the district will continue ensuring students in need are fed.

“We are continuing to provide daily meals for those who would like our food services, as well as information regarding our mental health services,” Fisher said.

Since Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered all public schools to remain closed until April 17 in an effort to prevent spreading COVID-19, Fisher told the Log Cabin Democrat the district has served 560 meals to local children.

“[We’re] averaging 112 a day,” he said.

Cynthia Melton, the food and nutrition services director for Opaa! Food Management, which serves the Guy-Perkins School District, said she was thankful for school administrators, faculty and other volunteers who have stepped up to make the food packaging and delivery process happen.

“I see a group of heroes,” she said.

The group has allowed residents to pick up meals at the school for their children and has also utilized one of the district’s buses to deliver meals hungry students.

“You see a bus driver. I see someone who has volunteered their time and efforts to make sure the kids they pick up and drive home everyday don’t go to bed hungry,” she said in an online statement last week. “You see a district liaison. I see someone who is selfless and spends hours in the kitchen preparing meals, washing dishes, providing laughter, and giving advice in a time when laughter and acts of selflessness are needed the most.”

The area food services director said she was grateful to see elementary teachers, principals and other administrators among those volunteering time to help the district’s students.

“You see a principal. I see someone who throws on a pair of gloves and makes popcorn chicken wraps. Someone who wanted to add a little something extra to the lunches being delivered on St. Patrick’s Day, so she added a strand of clover-shaped beads. Someone who goes above and beyond for the students she cares for everyday and has also found a way to make students have meals on the weekend by providing coupons,” Melton’s post reads in part.

Though school is closed and volunteers are helping provide meals, counselor Penny Howard has not shut down the district’s backpack program. The backpack program provides after-school snacks to students in need. To participate in the program, email Howard at penny.howard@gptbirds.org or call 501-510-0535.

Children in the district ages 0-18 years old can participate in the student meal program by reaching out to Melton via email at Cynthia.melton@gptbirds.org or by calling 501-510-0535. Parents should include the ages for those they need meals for, their phone number and specify if they want to pick up their meals or have them delivered. If choosing to have “Grab and Go” meals delivered, families must also provide their address.

While students are celebrating spring break at a safe distance, Fisher said he encourages them not to stress about their studies.

“Do not stress about AMI work,” he said while encouraging parents to spend quality time with their children. “Read a book to your child, play a board game, or just spend some quality time together like enjoying the ‘free fishing’ week in Arkansas. Please let your children know we miss them and reassure them that we will make it through this together. The safety and well-being of our students are at the heart of our decisions. Thank you for your patience as we chart this new territory!”

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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