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Northampton Schools deal with COVID-19 closures

JACKSON – Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee updated the Board of Commissioners at an emergency meeting here Monday afternoon to detail what the school system is doing in response to school closures.

NC Gov. Roy Cooper released an executive order on Sunday that all public schools will be closed effective Monday, March 16 for at least two weeks over concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus). Dr. Chamblee said she and the district’s response team met for several hours on Sunday to determine their plan going forward.

The first order of business is to ensure students are still receiving meals if they need it.

“We do know there is food insecurity in Northampton County,” the superintendent explained.

In response, the school system is coordinating with its school nutrition program and using school buses to deliver breakfast and lunch directly to students at their homes. The district has received authorization from the state to use PRC056 funds to reimburse the costs of using the buses.

“We don’t mind even if they were not [reimbursable],” Dr. Chamblee said. “We don’t mind doing this for our families. They’re still our kids.”

Dr. Chamblee added that food is offered to all students at no cost to them or their families. Parents also have the option to pick up the food for their children directly at the meal preparation sites.

Along with the food, the buses on Tuesday will deliver instructional packets of schoolwork to students.

Dr. Chamblee explained that teachers worked Monday to develop lesson plans for the 10-day absence so that learning will continue while schools remain closed, even if students do not have reliable internet access at home. She did note, however, that teachers will be available to provide online instruction if necessary.

“We want our teachers to know we care about them just as much,” Chamblee said, explaining that teachers will remain at home until the schools reopen.

The superintendent directed families to the school district’s website (northampton.k12.nc.us) for more information. There is also a Google form for parents to fill out in order to provide up-to-date information about how many meals they may need.

Dr. Chamblee acknowledged that the meal deliveries will allow the district’s bus drivers to continue to work. Though not all of the buses will be running in order to ensure a streamlined and fiscally responsible way to deliver the meals, some bus drivers will be assisting in other capacities, such as helping pack the lunches and assisting with the actual door-to-door delivery.

“We want to make sure all of our employees still receive their pay,” she said.

Custodians have already started work on sanitizing all the schools, and essential personnel and 12-month employees will continue to work as well.

“We’re more than appreciative for the people who wanted to step up to help. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be accountable for what we do or what we fail to do,” she concluded.

Commissioner Nicole Boone commended Dr. Chamblee for being diligent so far in dealing with the constantly changing situation.

“We’re all going to work together to overcome the situation we all find ourselves in,” said Board Chair Charles Tyner, echoing the same sentiments. “We know not what the future holds.”