Hospers Elementary holds lunch in classes

Hospers Elementary head cook Heather Katt hands a tray to first-grader Halynn Schoneman during a recent lunch hour. Because of social distancing protocols, students have been picking up meals in the cafeteria and taking them to their homerooms to eat.

HOSPERS—Social distancing measures have meant meals at Hospers Elementary have looked different from usual this academic year.

Students at the school have been eating breakfast and lunch in their classrooms instead of in the lunchroom as a way to better space themselves out and avoid spreading the coronavirus.

At lunchtime, each teacher’s homeroom walks separately to the kitchen door to receive their hot lunch and then receives their milk carton from their teacher. The pupils then return to their classroom to eat.

“It was a learning process the first few months, but it goes pretty smoothly,” said head cook Heather Katt.

Children who eat breakfast at school also eat in their classrooms. However, for that meal, Katt and another kitchen employee deliver paper sacks of the breakfast items to the classrooms on a cart.

The breakfast menus vary day to day and can include items such as cereal, doughnuts, muffins or warm meals like waffles, French toast or pancakes. Breakfast also is served with fruit, milk and juice.

Once the students are finished eating, they leave their trays on carts that are placed outside each classroom. They also dispose of garbage in trash cans left outside each room.

“It’s gone surprisingly well,” said Hospers Elementary principal Marcia De Graaf. “Each classroom teacher has really had to help and do many things that they haven’t been asked to do in the past with cleaning and wiping, things like that, so I give credit to them.”

Although the location where students eat is different this year, De Graaf said they still are being given a nutritious meal option twice a day as they would normally. She also commended the teachers at the school for maintaining a positive attitude while adjusting to the COVID-19 protocols.

“Life in the classroom is a little bit lonelier,” she said. “We don’t go out and about and see each other as much. That’s maybe an emotional strain on people. We are used to being more out and about and with everybody throughout the day.”

The dining changes also have meant the lunchroom is quieter than usual, which has been a downside for Katt and the other kitchen staff. She is able to see the students briefly when handing them their lunch trays as the other kitchen workers prepare the next plate.

“We do miss the interaction with each child, trying to make them feel as special as possible. That’s the only huge thing that we as cooks miss is the one on one with each child,” Katt said.

De Graaf spoke of how glad everyone has been to be able to be at the school in person since the academic year started, even though COVID-19 strategies have been in place.

She also mentioned how there are just a few months left of the semester.

“We want to make sure that we stay doing the things that we’re doing because the end is in sight and we have two more months,” she said. “The school year has gone well for us, so we just want to make sure that we maintain and stick with it and stay positive.”