A plea to the Hopkins School Community

April 16, 2020

On Monday evening, the Hopkins School District superintendent, Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed, sent out an email to Hopkins families about the financial state of the district as a result of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, like the scenario that the world finds itself in, the news was grim.

While it was noted that District 270 will continue to receive expected revenue in its general fund based on K-12 attendance by means of distance learning, programs that are fueled solely by fees could be running out of gas. These fee-based departments include Early Childhood, Community Education and Nutrition, and all three of these will be hit hard financially.

Mhiripiri-Reed said that Nutrition is anticipating a loss of $500,000 and Community Education is expecting a loss of $2.5 million, which means the horrid reality of forced layoffs might be rapidly approaching. 

These layoffs could not be coming at a worse time for the district, as both of these departments are serving as essential workers on the frontlines during these trying times. They are coming into work and risking their health to serve our district’s most vulnerable families and emergency workers.

As a district, we need these workers as we try to combat the virus. And we can help, especially within the realm of the Nutrition Department.

The district has made free meals available to every Hopkins student since the schools were closed in mid-March, regardless of whether or not you qualified for free or reduced lunch. That’s right free, F-R-E-E. 

Meals are given out on a weekly basis, include seven breakfasts and seven lunches and can be pre-ordered between 2 p.m. on Mondays and 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Ordering these meals even if your family is financially comfortable during these times is still important because the Nutrition Department is reimbursed for every meal that is served, meaning that more money will be flowing into the department thus having more money to pay department employees during these financially hectic times.

A purchase of these meals is a win-win for both district families and the Nutrition Department. The meals will cover two meals every week if a family is experiencing monetary hardships or save a trip to the grocery store for those who are more financially stable as the food comes unprepared. At the same time, money will be flowing into the Nutrition Department, allowing for many workers who have continued working during a dangerous pandemic to retain their jobs.

So that is why I plead all of you reading this within the Hopkins School District to help out our Nutrition Department by pre-ordering these free meals. If you are a student reading, notify your parents about the free meal program so they can begin pre-ordering meals next week, and if you are a parent reading, copy and paste this URL (https://www.hopkinsschools.org/parentsstudents/breakfast-and-lunch-menus/free-meal-ordering-pick-questions-and-answers) into your search bar and click on the box that says “Order Free Student Meals”.

I saw an encouraging sign when I opened up the Google Form for the meal pre-ordering where there was announcement from Wednesday informing everyone that “Due to overwhelming demand, we have closed our food ordering form today at 5:00 PM.”

But this financial strain is not going to end just with one week of orders. This needs to be consistent so that money is continuously being poured into the Nutrition Department and these amazing workers who have done so much for everyone, both when students could attend school in person and now when students are forced to learn from the confines of their houses, can keep serving Hopkins Public Schools. 

Some other methods Dr. Mhirpiri-Reed recommended for helping keep fee-based programs afloat include writing to local legislators, and if your family is in a financially comfortable situation, paying off outstanding balances from a nutrition account or continuing to pay dues to either early childhood programs or after-school programs.

I, along with most other district students, have had some sort of experience with at least one, if not all, of the fee-based programs that are in trouble during this terrible pandemic. This district has meant a great deal to me since I started attending North Junior High in seventh grade and I would like to see students who come after me to have great experiences like so many students, including myself, have had once a semblance of normal returns.

In order for that to happen, we need to come together as a district and do what we can to support the people who make Hopkins so great.

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