The Blizzard of ’16 closed schools in Montgomery County and surrounding areas for a full week, but some MCPS schools were still serving their communities.
On Wednesday, the MCPS Division of Food and Nutrition Services decided to try open some schools to provide free lunches to families in communities which often rely on the MCPS Free and Reduced Price Meals Service, also know as FARMS, for nutritious meals, and may have been without a good meal for almost a week.
Two schools in the Germantown area were among the 11 in the County which opened to serve free lunches to any student and their family while schools were closed on Thursday and Friday. The free lunch program began with 10 schools, among them was Clopper Mill Elementary School on Cinnamon Drive in Germantown. Over 150 students and their families came to the school on Wednesday for a free lunch.
On Thursday, Capt. Daly Elementary School on Brandermill Drive in Germantown was also open for any student to come in for a free lunch.
Nora Dietz, the principal at Capt. Daly ES said, “I got a call from food services Wednesday, saying that they were going to open a few locations and would we be interested. I said absolutely.”
Dietz said that she was concerned about the families and students in her community because she knows how hard it is for some of the school community to make ends meet. “I have seen some grateful families today. Grateful just to have a meal.”
According to Greg Edmundson, MCPS’ director, Office of School Support and Improvement, Elementary Schools, “It is for communities that may need it more than others. The schools that are offering free lunches today are Title I schools. I think come Wednesday, (the Division of Food and Nutrition Services) thought of an opportunity to help these communities out. The good news is we are getting families from all over. I was at Cloppers Mill Elementary yesterday, and we had families from Matsunaga Elementary School, Sally Ride Elementary, and Germantown Elementary coming in for lunch. They focused on the Title I schools but looked at neighborhoods that could serve as all and opened it up to everybody. ‘Please come in and enjoy a lunch. We can help you.”
The MCPS chose the 11 schools that would provide the free lunches based on the school’s Title I status. Title I is a federal program that provides financial assistance to local school systems and schools with high percentages of poor children to support the academic achievement of disadvantaged students.
Both Capt. Daly ES and Clopper Mill ES are Title I schools. According to 2014-2015 MCPS enrollment records, 70.9 percent of Capt. Daly Elementary’s students 591 were enrolled in the FARMS program. The FARMS rate at Clopper Mill Elementary during the 2014-2015 school year was 69.6 percent of 460 students.
“We have enough food for 150 people, but we have plenty in our freezers, and we can do more. We’ve served 100 meals so far,” said Dietz mid-way through the free lunch. In the end, Dietz said 166 free lunches were served at Capt. Daly on Thursday.
Dietz said that once word got out that the school would be hosting the free lunches, she began getting phone calls and messages from her staff asking if they could come in to help out. In the she said, 10 staff members came into school on a snow day to help provide lunches to students and their families.
“I wanted to see some of my students,” said Alex Croyle, a third-grade teacher at Capt. Daly. “It has been a week since I have seen them and I wanted to say hello to anyone that came out. I wanted to help support the community.”
While the intentions of the program were good and valuable, there were some who questioned, if we can provide lunch to students at the school, why not instruction?
“That is a question I got from a parent moments ago,” said Edmunson, who was visiting Capt. Daly Elementary as lunch was being served on Thursday. “Of our over 200 schools we still have schools that are finishing up the plowing, but the walkways and streets are still bad throughout the county. We have thousands of kids that walk to school if they live within the mile of their school. We need to make sure that they are going to be safe door-to-door.”
Dietz echoed those concerns, “Many of the folks here today walked here. A lot of the families are sharing with me that they are having a terrible time walking on the roads.” She said that she was concerned about the large number of families that attend Capt. Daly ES that live in the nearby Middlebrook Mobile Home Park. “I am concerned about my mobile home community because I have heard it is very difficult to get in and out of there. There is no place for the kids to stand to get the bus.”
MCPS announced on Thursday that schools would be closed again on Friday, Jan. 29 wiping out the entire week of school for students. While many of the students weren’t thinking about school as they went sledding or playing X-Box, it seems their schools were thinking about them.
Top: Students and families receive free lunches Thursday at Capt. Daly Elementary School, which was one of 11 schools that provided free lunches to any student on Thursday, as schools were closed due to the Blizzard of ’16.
Next: According Principal Nora Dietz, 166 lunches were served at Capt. Daly Elementary School on Thursday. The school was also open on for free lunch on Friday.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.