Superintendent Kim Carter was featured on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show on Thursday with Tim Collins to share the latest updates on what BCPS is doing, and what families can do now.

WBCK: What are options for families who may have been relying on school food programs?
Superintendent Kim Carter: BCPS is excited about the opportunity to maintain student food security during school closures. We have a heroic group of food service employees who are working hard to get food out to the community. They are handing out food at all elementary schools and at a couple of additional locations out in the community. At all seven elementary schools, Battle Creek Central High School and an additional nine spots throughout the community including the Battle Creek YMCA and Trinity Lutheran Church, we are passing out not just meals but also books to help with the continuity of learning across this closure. On Tuesday, we gave out 1,300 meals. We know that our families are in need and we are going to continue handing out meal packs over the next two weeks.

WBCK: What is included in the meal packs?
KC: Each pack includes breakfasts and lunches to last until the next pickup day. Students do not have to be present with the adult to receive food, and if students come without their parents, we are going to make sure they can receive food too. Pickup days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

WBCK: Is this just for the families in Battle Creek Public Schools?
KC: No, you don't have to be a student in BCPS to receive food. If you can get to our schools and you are in need, we will make sure you are served.

WBCK: How are meals being served?
KC: These are grab-and-go. We are adhering to the recommendations of social distancing. So outside of the schools, there are grab and go pickups with people passing meals out as the families arrive and giving them some books to go with them. So on Monday you get breakfast and lunch for Monday and Tuesday; when you come back on Wednesday, you'll get another two days’ worth of food, and so on.

WBCK: Is there any online learning going on right now in Battle Creek Public Schools?
KC: For those families that have access to the internet, we are making sure that they have a wide variety of different activities that they can choose from. Today we launched a Learn at Home website, that information is being sent out today for families that do have internet access. We are also providing information on some of the local companies that provide free internet service. If you don’t have access to the internet, we are working on providing books and other materials as well.

WBCK: Does this mandatory closing bump into spring break?
KC: Yes, for the entire Calhoun County area this closure extends until spring break. Our students will be out of school for three weeks of closure and an additional week for spring break. We know this is a long time, which is why it is very important to us that we provide them with a continuity of education to the best of our ability as well as feed them.

WBCK: Is there any word from the state on whether the emergency closing order could be extended, canceled or adjusted?
KC: I know that there are a lot of state leaders, educational leaders and teacher organization leaders that are meeting right now as we speak. They have not given us any indication of what is going to happen next. There are a lot of questions out there and sometimes it feels like I have more questions than answers, but we're just trying to prioritize and focus on what we can control for the moment and wait for more information.

WBCK: Is this closure in any way going to compromise our ability to hit state-required goals for reading and such?
KC: I anticipate that, of course, it's going to have a significant impact. We have put in place a four-week stop without any opportunity to truly plan for that four weeks of disruption. So we are going to have to think differently about the way we help students catch up when school resumes to make sure that no student is left behind. That is important to us. At Battle Creek Public Schools, we focus on making sure that we see every child by name, need and strength. And it's only going to be more important when they return. We will need to know where they left off and what we need to do to make sure that they continue to achieve.

WBCK: The state has a third grade reading requirement. Will that be impacted by closures?
KC: We are very much thinking about the third grade reading requirement. One big question that needs to be answered is what is Michigan going to do about state assessments. If we go back to school on April 13th, as currently planned, state testing is scheduled to begin right away. Students will have been out for four weeks without the ability to prepare. So we are calling on the legislature to waive state assessment for this year because that would be an undue burden on students. They need to be able to come back to school and focus on learning, and we need to have the opportunity to provide them with care and concern, not state assessments.

WBCK: I guess then that now would be a good opportunity to write your state representative or state senator to let them know your feelings on that.
KC: I think that our students deserve to have them waived. I think that it is an undue burden on students to come back from a stressful disruption to their education and then have to go straight into three weeks of standardized testing. And so we want to seek a waiver from that. I know that the Michigan Department of Education has written a letter to Betsy DeVos, and I'm asking that our community get behind that letter for the benefit of our students.

WBCK: The last time we talked, I was hoping that this time, we would be able to talk about the great success with the launch of the STEM and Fremont schools this year, which have been tremendous. We have had other pressing issues to discuss but I did want to bring it up that parents can apply right now, correct?
KC: Yes, on the BCPS website, you can enroll now for school next year or apply for a spot at BC STEM and Fremont International Academy. We are enrolling and we will continue to do that work. We will continue to share on our Facebook and website the great things that are happening at BCPS and information about all of our innovative programs. Amazing things are happening at Battle Creek Public Schools and we will not allow COVID-19 to take that away from us.

WBCK: And we're adding a grade to STEM and Fremont in this coming school year. So we're going to have two grades in each of those programs. Is that correct?
KC: Yes, BC STEM is enrolling for sixth and seventh grade. And Fremont International Academy will be adding third grade, so is enrolling now for pre-k, first, second and third grades.

WBCK: If more people are enrolling than you can handle there will be some sort of a drawing or lottery to determine who will get in or not?
KC: Same as last year, spots will be filled by lottery and we will have a waiting list. And there are more things coming your way as we continue to focus on the transformation of Battle Creek Public Schools. We started with Fremont international Academy, BC STEM and the high school Career Academies — and there is a lot more excitement to come.

WBCK: Is there anything else you would like to add, Kim?
KC: I just want to say to all of the families in our community that we are thinking about you. We hope that everybody is staying healthy and safe. And if there's anything that you need, please reach out to Battle Creek Public Schools. We're here to help.