Hastings Public Schools administrators are developing a plan to serve students, including meals for local youth, while school is closed to minimize the threat of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

Kandace Garwood, HPS director of student services, talked about that planning process during the superintendent’s report portion of the district Board of Education meeting on Monday.

HPS schools are closed this week, and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and state Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt are encouraging schools to also be closed next week but still offer alternative learning opportunities.

“We realize the challenges this creates for our families and our community,” Garwood said. “Safety is always our first priority.”

The district wants to provide services to its students who rely on them every day.

“We are working on an (Nebraska Department of Education) application to be able to provide meals to our students — actually, to anyone under the age of 18,” she said. “We could be ready, if our application is approved, as soon as this Monday. It is our understanding that the meals would be grab-and-go bags and would include both a lunch and a breakfast.”

HPS will work with other community agencies to assist meeting the community’s needs. A meeting is planned for Tuesday wherein several community agencies will be working together and brainstorming ways to support the needs of Hastings.

District office administrators have been working on a plan for academics in the event of a long-term closure. HPS principals will be joining other administrators Tuesday, and as a team district administrators will process how that will look.

“We know we will continue to provide developmental activities for all our students,” Garwood said.

As the district continues to work to answer questions and come up with plans, administrators are working closely with health officials, the Nebraska Department of Education, the other Tri-City schools and other educational entities.

“We promise we will do what we can to keep you informed,” she said. “Continue to watch for messages from the district on our website, in your email, on social media and in the news.

“Again, safety is our first priority. We know that if we work together we can make it through this virus and come out better and stronger in our Hastings community. We thank you all for your support during this time.”

Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, also provided an update on monitoring the virus.

New information is coming out rapidly, she said. In fact, some of the information in a news release Monday morning already was obsolete by Monday evening.

She advised anyone feeling sick to stay home.

If someone tested positive for the virus, nobody from that household should go to work or school and should be in close contact with health care providers.

More information is available at southheartlandhealth.org.

Board Member Becky Sullivan thanked Bever and her staff.

“They’ve been working nonstop for weeks, and they are doing a fantastic job putting out information and making sure we’re all on the same page,” Sullivan said.

Board President Jim Boeve commended Superintendent Jeff Schneider and his staff for their work.

“They have put in a lot of hours, and I think they’ve made the best decisions they could possibly make,” he said. “Kudos to Jeff and all of the people who are working with him on our administration.”

Schneider thanked district office staff and administrators for their diligence and dedication.

Board members also voted 8-0 to appoint Jodi Graves to fill a board vacancy.

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