Donna ISD distributed food to school aged children last week through its meals on wheels program, using the occasion as an opportunity to meet with students and parents to ask about what’s working and what isn’t working as virtual learning continues.
Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez took part in the distribution program Monday, saying that nutrition is key for student success.
“We know, I mean, students who are functioning on an empty stomach cannot learn or produce the same way that students who have some food,” he said. “Also, we don’t want them to eat any kind of meal, we want them to eat a healthy meal.”
Azaiez says with campuses closed and children studying from home, getting meals to the district’s students is particularly important.
Using buses to drive them closer to the students’ doorsteps can solve other problems the community faces with food distribution, the superintendent said.
“Many of them, they may not have a car. Or they may have a car, but maybe dad is using it to go to work every day, and if they had a car they would have to drive, get in line to grab their food from one of our distribution sites and come back. It may take them a long time,” he said.
Azaiez says parents who picked up meals Monday were appreciative, a sentiment echoed by how popular the program is.
On Sept. 11, the schoolday prior to when Azaiez rode along, the district distributed breakfasts and lunches to more than 4,500 students.
“I think that number’s going up day after day, because we’re trying to reach out to more families,” he said.
Azaiez says he used Monday as an opportunity to talk to parents about how the school year was going for them so far. He says he was confident in many aspects of online learning, like teacher training and device distribution, but was worried about Wi-Fi connectivity — a problem parents he spoke to Monday appeared to be tackling.
“I talked to several parents, and with the exception of one, everybody said that we have internet connection or we just got it or something like that,” he said. “I wanted to make sure, again, that our students are connecting with their teachers synchronously, we want that live interaction with their teacher as well as with their classmates. Asynchronous is OK, but we prefer that our students connect synchronously.”
According to Azaiez, Wi-Fi towers slated to be completed in the next few weeks should further help the district’s students with connectivity problems.
“I think the community’s very resilient, and we all know that we’re going to get through this together by coming together and being flexible, bold and brave,” he said.