Ashland City School District's director of business services, Steve Paramore met with other school officials, local nonprofits and a handful of volunteers Tuesday afternoon to discuss how the district will continue providing meals. 

ASHLAND -- On Tuesday afternoon, the room typically used to hold school board meetings at the Ashland City School District's Administrative Building was transformed into somewhat of a crisis response center. 

Split between two meeting spaces and seated several feet apart, approximately 20 individuals gathered to hash out how the district could improve its new online learning platform and meal delivery services. 

In one room, director of business services Steve Paramore spoke with a team of local nonprofits and volunteers about the district's first experience delivering food to students' doorsteps, while in the other, Superintendent Doug Marrah and educational technologist Ben Spieldenner addressed educational components to the recent transition.

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Ashland City School District initiated remote education Monday morning -- one school day ahead of Governor Mike DeWine's order to close schools for a minimum of three weeks to limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Marrah explained how the district's technology team has laid the groundwork and provided training for teachers to offer digital learning opportunities, such as the chance for elementary students to listen to a book read aloud by their teacher. Teachers may also upload recordings of their lessons through Google Suites for students to view. 

"The governor, what he provided us in terms of information was that he expects education to go on, and we didn't know how that would go because of the short time line, but it's impressive. Our kids are still learning," Marrah said. "We started the conversation around what can we do to maintain, and after one day, I already know we're not just going to maintain, we're going to keep going and we're going to keep instructing kids." 

To allow for the online transition for all students, the district issued Chromebooks to students as needed, and Armstrong Cable in collaboration with the Ashland County Emergency Management Agency established wifi hotspots throughout the county. 

In the city of Ashland, wifi hotspots are available in the Ashland Public Library's parking lot, the softball field and band shell at Brookside Park, the Ashland County Fairground's parking lots, Corner Park and all the parking lots outside of the Ashland City School District's building parking lots administrative offices. 

According to Paramore, the district's initial plan for meal service was to deliver two meal sets -- breakfast and lunch for two days -- every other day to families who signed up for delivery service. The four meals would also be available via pick-up at one of the school district's five buildings. 

This remains the plan, but on Tuesday, Paramore and others realized the district was unable to offer two meals for all families within its first delivery and pick-up. Meal service was not planned for Wednesday, March 18, but the district adapted. An additional meal set was available via pick-up option at Taft Intermediate to fill the need. 

"A lot of information was gathered on how we did business today, and here we are trying to get better for Thursday," Paramore said. 

The district delivered 534 meal sets, and had 75 more meals picked up on Tuesday. Parents picking up meals were asked to drive up to the building, where an employee will bring the food to their vehicle. 

Kitchen staff began preparing meals at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Some lunches included "uncrustable sandwiches;" others might have included wraps and cold sandwiches. 

Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., staff delivered the meals on two vans and two micro-buses. The smaller vehicles were chosen with the notion that they could better navigate small streets. 

The next delivery is planned for Thursday, March 19. It is expected to include two days worth of food. Pick up is also available at the Ashland Middle School and Edison Elementary School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The two breakfasts and two lunches are intended for Thursday and Friday, but are likely to feature items that could last into the weekend because Associated Charities has planned a pop-up lunch on Friday to offer an additional meal. Ashland City School District will not offer pick up or delivery service on Friday.

Associated Charities will offer meals for pick-up Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or while supplies last at the Compassion Church Parking Lot, 522 Ashland Avenue. The kid's shelf staple food bags are meant for children, but may include some supplemental food items for parents, too. 

How to sign up for food delivery through Ashland City School District 

If an Ashland CIty School District parent would like to sign up for food deliveries -- and has not already done so -- they should either sign up by calling Paramore at 419-289-4502 or through the district's "Remind service" as outlined below: 

- Ashland High School - Text the message @f743kg to 81010

- Ashland Middle School - Text the message @9ac24g to 81010

- Taft - Text the message @7cd47ee to 81010

- Reagan - Text the message @73ed3a to 81010

- Edison - Text the message @kcfk6c to 81010

New subscribers should sign up for the school of their oldest student. They will need to provide how many students they have and the address for the food delivery. Those who have already signed up do not need to do so again. 

What happens with food delivery next week?

The team of Ashland City School leaders, local nonprofits and volunteers is expected to speak with Ashland Source again Friday to provide the most up-to-date information for this weekend. 

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What additional meal services are available to Ashland School District families?

The Ashland Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center at 527 East Liberty Street offers its walk-up or drive-thru meal service every weekday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and has a food pantry available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. People are encouraged to call ahead for the food pantry at (419)281-8001. 

On Saturday, it's believed the Kroc Center will offer an additional walk-up or drive-thru meal service from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or while supplies last.

Associated Charities also has a food pantry operating from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Calling ahead is required at (419) 281-6061.

How can the community can help? 

Associated Charities and the Kroc Center can accept nonperishable donations, but the Ashland CIty School District can not due to the precautions it must follow, Paramore said. 

Late last week, an emergency response fund was established at Ashland County Community Foundation to help Ashland City Schools, The Salvation Army Kroc Center and other local nonprofits go above and beyond in providing free lunches to the school district’s students during the upcoming remote learning period.

"Our plan extends beyond the typical brick and mortar lunch program. For example, when we are driving our bus routes to deliver food this week we will have kids on one side of a street that are ACS and kids on the other side of the street that are Mapleton, or any of our bordering districts, we want to provide meals to all of those families," Marrah said Saturday, March 14. "This is a chance for all of us to work together and help kids that are in needs and families.

"Also, we are partnering with the Kroc (Center) and Associated Charities to provide this food. As this crisis evolves we could get more state/fed dollars than we currently are aware of for this service, if so, we will work ACCF to give the dollars raised to Associated Charities and the Kroc." 

The district will share food with the local nonprofits and work to ensure entire families are fed. The notion is to "do the right thing" at this unique time, Marrah said. 

Ashland County Community Foundation Executive Director James Cutright agreed to house an emergency fund at the foundation to collect donations.

Unlike a majority of the foundation’s funds, the emergency response fund is a pass-through fund rather than an endowment fund. This means the money that is donated will be directed to the lunch program rather than invested to generate annual income.

"This ACCF pass-through fund will be activated any time there is a local emergency, as a way to ensure that charitable dollars can be managed in a low-fee, efficient, credible way, as most folks have tremendous confidence in ACCF’s reputation of doing what’s best for those with needs in Ashland County," Cutright said. 

ACCF will take no fees from the money donated to the emergency fund. Only a three percent credit card fee will be deducted. To donate to the “Emergency Response (Pass-Through) Fund online,” click here. Checks also may be sent to Ashland County Community Foundation, 300 College Ave., Ashland.