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RUSD Schools Extend Closure; Meals Still Being Provided
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Staff members prep the food in the kitchen at Cardozo Middle School early each morning as they get ready for the lunch distribution. Photo Contributed

Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) has extended its closure of all schools in a collaborative effort with the districts in Stanislaus County due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the closures the schools have been offering free meals to youth 18 years old and younger. Teachers have been providing lessons through online platforms and work packets. The people behind the scenes that prepare and distribute food to families each morning have been working at the schools with positivity and have been well received by the community. The schools have extended their closure through May 3 as the cases of COVID-19 continue to increase.

“With the fluidity of the situation that date could change as well,” stated RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella. “Currently, we have no set plans regarding any events or activities. We will have graduation; we are just not sure when that will be.”

The students from grades 7 to 12 have been getting their lessons through the Google Classroom and other platforms specified by teachers. The elementary and sixth grade students were given work packets when the schools closed. The teachers are preparing new packets for the extension that will be available at the school sites on Monday, April 6 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Facella recommends that students read during this time and for families to go online with the resources that were provided for continued learning.

“Things are running smoothly and we have been distributing more meals each day,” said Food Service Manager Danette Grant. “People have been so friendly and happy to have the support.”

There are about six people that prep the meals and around five food service workers that distribute food at each site along with some staff and volunteers.

“While we know we have to have our food service employees in order to provide meals, we also have volunteers that wish to serve,” said Facella. “I believe that it is important for families to see us out there during this time as we are all in this together. Employees who are volunteering came to us to offer services as they felt the need to touch base with families as well.”

Families can attain their ‘grab and go meals’ by walking up or driving thru to Casa del Rio, California Avenue Elementary, and Cardozo Middle School between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. The food will be distributed throughout the closure including spring break.

“Families have been so friendly and happy at the food distribution,” added Facella. “Dr. Tapia said he has never been blessed so much as families continue to thank us for the support.” 

Riverbank High School Culinary Teacher Emily Cowdrey has been assisting in the food prep at Cardozo and distribution at Riverbank Language Academy with about three to four other people. They distribute over 100 meals each morning.

“It’s been interesting,” added Cowdrey. “School food has always been under strict guidelines and in this situation we are finding they are evolving and changing. Feels good to help provide this service. We will see how it all goes in the upcoming weeks.”

The assembly line of workers in the kitchen prepare all the lunches. They serve up bag lunches with sandwiches, apples, milk, juice and other packaged items.

Grant explained that the number of students served has been increasing daily with 510 meals provided this past Friday.

There are 25 school districts in Stanislaus County including RUSD that will be adhering to the extended closure with students possibly returning on May 4 dependent on the situation of the coronavirus. 

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This family walked up to receive bag lunches for each youngster along with chocolate milk and apple juice. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
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The grab and go meals at school sites in the Riverbank Unified School District serve walk up and drive thru families with help from staff member Helen Au-Yeung, shown here. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS