ROUND ROCK, Texas — While students learn from home, districts across Central Texas are working on the safest ways to bring students back to campuses when the time comes. One of the biggest places where social interaction takes place – the cafeteria.
Round Rock Independent School District leaders started creating a plan for lunchtime as soon as the district canceled school last year. Months later, Yana Koleva, the food services director, said they have tailored their plans based on what each school looks like and how many students attend each one.
"We actually went through every single cafeteria, measured every single table, counted how many we have of each and we calculated how many students we can safely fit in each space," Koleva said.
From the moment a student steps inside the cafeteria, Koleva said the safety and facilities committee has looked at every detail to ensure every student is safe.
This committee is comprised of the operations departments, health services, custodial, construction, transportation, as well as input from each campus.
As part of this plan, no student will cross paths. They will enter and exit the cafeteria and the lunch lines following a mapped path.
Sanitizing stations will be placed at the entrance of each cafeteria and each food line.
Once in line, a student will be required to stay on a decal marking six feet of distance between each one another. Staff also created decals for the cafeteria tables so students know where they should sit.
The district also inserted Plexiglas barriers and touchless mechanisms throughout the cafeteria, like the ID card scanner, to ensure they are not spreading the virus.
When students order their meals, cafeteria staff serves it on a disposable tray and hands it directly to the student. No student will put their own food on the tray.
While many safety measures are in place out front for food service staff, who wear masks, gloves and individually wrap each meal, much more also goes on behind the scenes.
"We have identified hospital-grade cleaners we will be using for non-contact food surfaces as well as revising our delivery receiving procedures," Koleva said.
Signage in the back reminds staff about proper sanitary measures. Each staff member will also have their temperature checked every day.
Koleva said they were required to base their plans off not just the Texas Education Agency's guidelines, but also the Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees the nutrition program in schools.
"We have to make sure it is easily executable for our staff and easy for the students as well," she said.
Since some schools cannot accommodate in a timely manner the number of students and staff who need to each lunch, committee members recommend some schools eat lunch in the classroom.
Round Rock ISD will welcome their first students to the campus on Sept. 10. This 1% of students require special education settings. On Sept. 15, they will then allow students who prefer to learn on-campus to start returning.
Only 30% are expected to return, according to the district's welcome back guidelines.
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