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US teachers raise funds for students on free meals as schools close due to COVID-19

March 13th, 2020
Teachers raise funds for students on free lunch as schools close due to COVID-19

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Three public school teachers from Virginia, USA, have raised funds for students who rely on free and reduced-price meals, as schools in the US close down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chemistry teacher Laurie Vena and physics teachers Aaron Schuetz and Deborah Waldron of Yorktown High School in Arlington knew that thousands of students on free and reduced meals would be affected if schools closed over COVID-19, as per Good Morning America on March 12. And so, the three teachers decided to help in their own way by putting up a fundraiser for the students.

“Kids who are on the free and reduced lunch program, they can get two meals a day from school, breakfast and lunch,” Vena said in the report. “For many of them, that might be the only two meals of the day that they get.”

Vena believes that these students’ primary need is food, otherwise they won’t learn anything from their teachers.

“Physics and chemistry are out the window when they’re hungry,” added Vena.

Thus, Vena, along with Schuetz and Waldron, launched a GoFundMe account so they can raise enough money to give grocery gift cards to every student of the Arlington Public Schools division. The gift cards would be worth $100 each (around P5,100), which they plan to give to some 8,300 students under free or reduced meals in the division.

Within two days, the teachers were able to raise over $37,000 (around. P1.8 million) of their $830,000 goal (around P43.4 million).

“One person alone thinks what can I do, but I see how many people are donating and what they’re donating and I’m just floored and overwhelmed by the care we have for everyone,” said Vena. “This is what we want our community to be so we need to show our kids that this is who we are.”

Should they not meet their $830,000 goal, Vena and her fellow teachers will continue to donate the grocery gift cards, but are planning to work with social workers so they can prioritize the most vulnerable students in the neediest schools.

The Arlington Public Schools school division has more than 28,000 students in total, as per the report. They initially only canceled non-essential school events and trips on March 12. On the same day, however, Arlington Public Schools, along with districts Bedford, Belmont, Burlington, Lexington and Winchester, has agreed to a two-week school closure, as per a joint statement via John Guilfoil Public Relations.

As of this writing, there are now around 1,600 confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases in the US, as per the latest update of NBC News on March 13 (March 12 in the US).  /ra

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