Detroit schools provide food, lesson plans during closure

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city's public schools began providing take-home food and study materials Wednesday for families to pick up during the district's mandatory closure.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is providing breakfast, lunch and learning packets for grades K-8 Monday through Friday at 58 locations for the next three weeks, officials said.

The locations can be found here.

Administrative staff helping pack take-home food at David L. Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School in March.

At David L. Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School on the city's west side, school administrators were running the packets and food to parents curbside. About 40 bags of food were passed out at the school in the first three hours.

However, all the other locations are walk-in one door and exit through another to prevent the spread of coronavirus, said district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson.

"This is the first time we're able to provide this to families because nothing like this has ever happened before," Wilson said. "We're giving parents resource guides so they can stick to some kind of continuity during this difficult time."

Following Gov. Gretchen Witmer's executive order to close schools Friday, the district spent 72 hours disinfecting buildings and creating an action plan for how to best serve its 51,000 students, Wilson said.

"It took all hands on deck to get the packets printed, get parents informed about what we are doing with robocalls, texts, social media, and set up a separate web page," she said. "Administrative staff mostly, we put out a call to all staff for anyone who felt healthy enough to help throughout the weeks. The staff has stepped up for the kids."

The district also has a team delivering supplies to families with parents and students who are ill. About 2,500 meals have been allocated for families stuck at home, Wilson said.

"At this point, it's hard to tell (who needs this the most). We're prepared for everyone and we even got calls from parents of surrounding schools whose schools aren't providing resources asking if they could call our homework hotline or if they could pick up food," Wilson said. "We're not turning anyone away."

► More: Map of Michigan virus cases

► More: Schools shift gears to feed students during closure

More: Complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic 

Jay Alexander, the executive director of athletics for Detroit public schools, helps give Lena Cones lesson plans and supplies for her two daughters Wednesday.

Lena Cones went to Mackenzie Wednesday to pick up lesson plans and food for her two daughters in second and eighth grade. She said she leaves home at 7 a.m. each day to go shopping and "has never seen anything like it."

"I recently moved across the city and luckily, I had a few things before I moved, because otherwise we wouldn't have been prepared," said Cones, 37. "You plan for holidays and breaks but this isn't something we expected. The girls are ready to go back to school, see their friends and have their daily routine.

"They ask me when this is going to end; I don't know what to tell them."

Michigan had 80 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday afternoon, and one fatality, a man in his 50s who died at a Beaumont Health hospital in Wayne County. 

School is expected to resume in April. Until then, students in grades eight through 12 will have access to Khan Academy, a site with free online lessons, to prepare for the PSAT/SAT, according to the DPSCD website. 

"... We are the city’s and people’s real school and community district," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement. "This means we advocate and care for our students and families beyond the classroom, especially in times of crisis. This is the moment to show that our work goes beyond rhetoric."

The "grab-and-go" breakfast will be served Monday-Friday from 8-10:30 a.m. and “grab-and-go” lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Students will not be allowed to enter buildings.

George Russell picked up food and lesson plans for his three children but said he loves having his kids home.

"To me, it's just another typical day. I don't see anything hard about it," said Russell, 52. "We just have to be adults and adjust for the time being."

Grab and go food offered at 58 Detroit school locations during the three week closure.

Lessons will be available through Clever, a mobile application. Students in grades 8-12 will have access to Khan Academy to complete lessons in preparation for PSAT/SAT and PSAT/SAT workbooks will also be available at the 58 sites. In addition, K-8 students will have access to reading materials through myON. iReady will be available for grades K-8 reading and math lessons.

The Homework Hotline will be available to families and students, Monday-Friday between 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m. For academic support, parents should call 1-833-466-3978. Students and parents can find additional academic resources at

Twitter: @SarahRahal_