MERRILL, Wis. (WAOW) -- September 1 marked the start of school for many districts across north central Wisconsin, including in-person classes at schools in the Merrill Area Public School District.
With the beginning of a new school year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, new safety measures will be in place for every aspect of a school day, including lunch periods. This is all in efforts to prioritize the safety of staff and students.
The MAPS will no longer allow students to help themselves with food during lunchtime, but instead there will be individual servings or food service workers serving the food. Food service workers will be required to wear masks and gloves while working to maintain high sanitation standards.
Social distancing methods will also be in place while students go get their meals, higher grade levels will be swapping in and out throughout the day. Some elementary school buildings will require students to eat lunch in their classroom.
"Students are going to look back at the way it was and we always compare; we compare past to present or present to future," said Merrill Area Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John Sample. "So I think they’ll have an appreciation for those times and they’ll certainly understand why we’re doing it. Even our younger students get it, that it’s for safety purposes.”
Merrill High School will be adding a third lunch period instead of only having two as another safety measure and effort to act on social distancing.
For the first time, junior and senior students will be encouraged to leave campus to get drive thru lunch instead of staying in the building during their designated time. As the year progresses, sophomore may also be granted the same opportunity.
“That’s a little bit of a different train of thought than before because we didn’t want our students to leave campus, become exposed to anything that may be out there, and then return back to the school setting," Dr. Sample added. "But most of our restaurants are all drive thru... they don’t have enough time to sit and eat.”
Students have been out of the building since mid-March, so lunch will also serve as more than just an opportunity to fill your stomach, but much needed socio-emotional time according to Dr. Sample.