Libby Sobic and Jessica Holmberg for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, all of Wisconsin’s K-12 school buildings are shut. Many schools, public and private, have been able to mitigate that with virtual and distance learning — online programs and take-home packets where kids are able to complete coursework to stay on top of their studies. But an under told story is the impact school closures have on low-income families; it is a reminder that many students rely on schools for breakfast and lunch — and childcare.

But all over the state, private and public charter schools are rallying to not only continue to provide educational services, but to care for their community. Wisconsin had 2,386 public, public charter and private schools participate in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program in 2019. Right now, because of social distancing and the Evers’ executive orders, many parents have been charged to perform their jobs at home or either aren’t working for the time being or have lost their jobs, which means they can be with their kids. But without their hard-earned dollars coming home, for many families, feeding their kids would be harder than ever, were it not for the schools that have stepped up.

Fortunately, public and private schools alike have designated locations for children in need to come pickup two meals per day. Some are even making this food available to every child in need.

Take St. Augustine Prep, a private Christian school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), located on the south side of Milwaukee, for example. The school is providing breakfast and lunch packages to anystudents (regardless of what school they attend) under the age of eighteen, in a drive-through style pickup line from 7–10 a.m. each weekday. According to an update they posted on their website, they were able to serve 4,100 meals just last week.

Students from St. Augustine Prep in Milwaukee completing their school work at home.

“This means neighborhood children, extended family members under 18, or any child across Milwaukee can access meals just like our Aug Prep students can,” said Abby Andriestsch, the President of St. Augustine Prep.

St. Augustine Prep School began online classes March 19. As for replicating school at home, Andriestsch says the school is providing much more for students than just at-home lessons.

“Our social workers have been working hard to provide mental health resources to our students as well as our families,” Andriestsch said. “Our Bible Teachers are providing devotions. Our PE teachers are recording daily workouts and workout challenges which many of our families are participating in together.”

Other schools throughout the state, like GRACE, are providing similar services. GRACE, which stands for Green Bay Area Catholic Education, consists of nine Pre-K-8th-grade schools and since the official announcement of the public health crisis just last week, managed to get their remote schooling off the ground and learning materials distributed to all their students.

“Our school leadership was able to deploy electronic devices if the family was limited in the number of computers, tablets and phones available for students and parents now working at home,” said GRACE president Kimberly Desotell. “Our teachers are working hard to support each one of their students and families through daily communication, lesson plans and recommendations for how to help students transition to online learning.”

GRACE is also providing for their community’s physical needs. Starting this week, GRACE is giving out an average of 1,000 meals, breakfast and lunch, per day to students, their families and members of the GRACE community.

COVID-19 has posed many problems and will continue to do so, but it also has shown to be a time for people to help each other and to remember that we are all in this together. Other examples include:

Southeastern Wisconsin

  • Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a private high school in the MPCP, located on the south-side of Milwaukee, established a CRJ Emergency Assistance Fund, to help Cristo Rey students, families and alumni who are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19.
  • Kenosha Christian Life Schoola private school serving over 750 students, created “Education in a Box” free lesson plans for any K4–6th-grade students who want to continue their education during isolation with the goal to be a resource for others schools, particularly those not fully equipped to facilitate distance learning.

Madison

  • One City School, an independent public charter school in Madison, is asking all families to respond to their COVID-19 Emergency Parent Survey as a way for the school to determine financial aid for families in need. Additionally, the school is working with the community and donors support to the COVID Impact Fund, a fund for the One City School families struggling with financial difficulties.
  • Madison Country Day School, a K4–12 private school in Madison, urged their families on Facebook to look for volunteer opportunities during COVID-19. The post included a link to Volunteer Wisconsin for those looking to help by sewing face masks.

Northeastern Wisconsin

Ms. Sobic is director and legal counsel of education policy and Ms. Holmberg is a policy and communications associate at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

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