In order to continue providing nutritional nourishment to students while not in school, St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, Maryland, activated drive-through meals on March 17. Similar to its summer food program the school is able to provide breakfast, lunch and a snack to students in need.

The Office of the Catholic Community of Langley Park and Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Takoma Park also opened a walk-up lunch service to assist the community with food as well. More sites may be added in the future as needed.

Tobias Harkleroad, principal and chief administrator at St. Francis International School, said that they “plan to be at least at these two sites (St. Francis International School and the Catholic Community of Langley Park) for as long as we can in the near future.”

More than 250 students were fed on the first day of the program, and more were expected in the following days.

Planning for the program began early last week, so when the Archdiocese of Washington announced on March 12 that following the recommendations of local government leaders, local Catholic schools would be closed from March 16-27 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Harkleroad said the teachers had already had a faculty day to plan for the weeks ahead.

“We had a faculty day on (March 13) to finalize all of our planning,” he said.

The school’s partnership with the State of Maryland provides Chromebooks for online learning to students in grades five through eight to take home, and for fourth graders to use in the classroom, so St. Francis International School extended the opportunity for fourth graders to borrow Chromebooks to continue online learning activities at home.

Learning packets were emailed to families with students in grades prekindergarten through third grade, and families could pick them up during the drive-through at the school.

To bring the school community together each day, Harkleroad is posting daily videos with morning prayer for the students.

“We’re just trying to do our best to make sure that as many needs are met as possible so that our kids can be able to learn while at home,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to be anxious, frustrated or fearful. We want to make sure families have the tools to let their kids learn and grow during this time and not feel like they are blocked from doing so.”