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Photos: Kids are home because of coronavirus, but Hall County Schools are working hard to keep them fed
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Lula Elementary nutrition staff cart bagged meals Monday, March 16, 2020, for early morning delivery to students along bus routes that receive free lunches at school. - photo by Scott Rogers

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Children and parents stood in their yards as Hall County Schools bus drivers dropped off meals with paraprofessionals, coaches and other school faculty members Monday morning.

“The reason that anyone would decide to do this is because it’s helping out the community,” Paul Mundy, a Hall bus driver, said. “For me personally, and for the other drivers as well, these are the students we serve every day, and we have a vested interest in them.”

Clay Hobbs, Hall’s director of transportation, said most of the school system’s staff found out on Friday, March 13, about the decision to deliver lunches. From there, he said the schools started thinking of the most efficient ways to meet the needs of the district. 

Hobbs had all of the buses run the elementary portion of their morning routes with the first stops taking place at 8:15 a.m. He worked with the bus drivers to come up with an estimate of the number of students they needed to serve. 

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A boy waits as a Hall County School bus approaches his East Hall home Monday, March 15, 2020, as bagged meals are delivered by school bus to Hall County students. - photo by Scott Rogers

Typically, 60-80% of those on the bus schedule’s roster ride the bus in the morning, Hobbs said. However, he said the turnout exceeded the system’s expectations. 

Sarah Sheridan, Hall’s nutrition director, said the system prepared over 6,000 meals. She said the school clusters will need to adjust their meal numbers for Tuesday, March 17.

“We definitely had a bigger turnout based on what we normally do for summer feeding, and what we did for Hurricane Irma,” Sheridan said. 

Although some bus drivers ran out of food on their routes, Mundy said they worked closely with each other to supply the demand.

“The schools and the whole transportation department worked hand-in-hand, it was a big collaboration,” Mundy said. “The drivers care. If they had any extra food, they would take it to other drivers.”

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Lula Elementary nutrition staff load buses with bagged meals Monday, March 16, 2020, for early morning delivery to students along bus routes that receive free lunches at school. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sheridan said around 278 nutrition staff members began preparing lunch and breakfast for students at 5 a.m. 

In addition to kids being served from their homes, parents also had the option of picking up meals for free at any elementary school in Hall. Some of the lunches and breakfast meals included Pop-Tarts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hamburgers, cereal and fruit.

David Wagner, athletic director at West Hall High School, said he enjoyed helping out students  along the Oakwood bus route Monday morning. He plans to continue serving for as long as needed.

“It was a good morning with a lot of smiles,” Wagner said. “A lot of the elementary kids were so excited food was being dropped off.”

Like any first day of implementing a large new plan, Hobbs said Monday offered a large learning curve. Each day he expects to grow in efficiency.

“Regardless of what day you start like this, it’s important to get the first day out of the way, so you can meet the needs eventually,” Hobbs said. “We should be in a better situation tomorrow.”

Stan Lewis, Hall’s spokesman, said if school from home needs to be extended beyond March 20, the system will continue providing meals for students.

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Lula Elementary nutrition staff load prepackaged meals Monday, March 16, 2020, onto waiting buses for early morning delivery to students that receive free lunches at school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Prepackaged meals are dropped off to a Lula Elementary student Monday, March 16, 2020, as students stay at home due to school closures. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Lula Elementary nutrition staff cart bagged meals to waiting buses Monday, March 16, 2020, for early morning delivery to students along bus routes that receive free lunches at school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Two youths race back to their East Hall home Monday, March 16, 2020, after receiving prepackaged meals delivered by a Hall County school bus. - photo by Scott Rogers
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A woman receives prepackaged meals for Lula Elementary students delivered to her East Hall home Monday, March 16, 202, as Hall County School buses drop off the meals. - photo by Scott Rogers
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