Pender County Schools providing meals, internet and online-instruction during COVID-19 pandemic

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Thousands of students enrolled in Pender County Schools are ending a second week at home as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic while district leaders and staff scramble to coordinate logistics to provide meals, internet service and online-instruction.

Since school was canceled there has been a small army of staff working to ensure students across the district have food to eat. The meals are distributed by the district’s food service provider, Aramark, and the district’s Transportation Department.

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“The first couple of days every school distributed food and then we got down to six sites and now there are 60 spots where you can go to pick up food from about 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said Pender County Schools Communication Coordinator Alex Riley.

On Wednesday, about 10,000 breakfast and lunch meals were distributed to more than 4,000 people.

“We’re really happy about the response and we’re looking forward to continuing to serve the students and children of Pender County,” Riley said.

Since the county is mostly rural, internet service is not available in many areas but the district is working to provide internet for students in all areas so they can keep up with online instruction.

“There are some parts that have it and some that don’t,” Riley said. “We issued district Chromebooks, students have the chance to go by their respective schools and pick them up by making an appointment.”

Pender, Topsail and Trask High Schools have a WiFi hot spot set up provided by Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation, or ATMC. Parents can park their vehicle, log onto their district’s website and download assignments for their child on district-issued Chromebooks. There is a fourth hotspot at the Pender County Library in Burgaw.

“We’re trying to keep students connected as best we can,” Riley said.

As for high school graduations, Riley says the district doesn’t have a clear answer right now.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “Right now we are waiting on further guidance from the state to tell us how we’re going to finish out the rest of the year and what that’s going to look like.”

For now, everything is postponed.

“We’re going to, if possible, have something for these seniors,” Riley said. “We haven’t figured out what that looks like yet, there’s a lot of factors going into that.

Pender High School students normally hold graduation in the gymatorium on campus. However, Trask and Topsail High Schools usually hold separate graduation ceremonies at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium. If the graduation date is postponed, Riley says the venue may not be available.

“We’ll have to see if UNCW will let us use their facilities to hold a graduation ceremony,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of moving parts, we’re still trying to figure it out but will get an answer here, hopefully, sooner than later.”

If you have questions you’d like WWAY to ask district leaders, email newsroom@wwaytv3.com.