With the sudden disruption of everyone’s day-to-day lives due to the unforeseen rapid spread of the coronavirus, many communities, groups, and families are facing various challenges. From a lack of food to an absence of shelter for animals, a great number of the population is dealing with some sort of complication due to the pandemic and the abrupt closure of most schools, stores, and businesses. After seeing the whole community at such a low, KatyISD takes matters into their own hands and decides that they want to help out in whatever ways they can. From providing meals to economically disadvantaged students to opening barn areas to temporarily house the rodeo animals, KatyISD is helping the community recover in full stride.
“After the City of Houston and Harris County announced the cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the organization started to reach out to neighboring fairgrounds and partners for assistance in housing competition animals,” said Maria Dipetta, KatyISD’s media relations, and multimedia manager.
The evening that Houston and Harris County health departments decided to shut down the Rodeo, KatyISD decided to open up the barn area at the district’s Gerald D. Young Agricultural Science Center. Through the course of the night, animals were brought to the facility and housed there temporarily while KatyISD and the owners made necessary arrangements to find them permanent housing.
“Katy ISD has one of the largest agricultural chapters in Texas and we are fortunate enough to open and operate one of the state’s most comprehensive facilities. Our facility was perfect to accommodate those animals in our barn area, which had the needed resources that those animals needed,” said Dipetta.
Many of KatyISD’s agricultural teachers were quick to disseminate the information among student FFA groups. Many of them were even present at the Katy ISD Agricultural Sciences Center to greet and provide barn space for the arriving animals. Although an exact number was not calculated, the facility received cows, lambs, sheep and two heifers, one of which was pregnant.
“Katy ISD understands that finding a location for these animals is not something easy. A small challenge for the District was to disseminate that the Gerald D. Young Agricultural Sciences Center was available. The facility is fairly new so many people are not aware that it exists,” said Dipetta. “However, the Katy ISD Communication team along with agricultural teachers were quick to spread the information.”
Katy ISD understood the challenges these owners were facing with finding housing. Many of those individuals and students would have needed to make some quick decisions in order to find shelter for those animals. By offering them KatyISD’s barn area, they gained more time to find a permanent and safe place for their animals.
“As one of the largest agricultural chapters in Texas, this was a great opportunity to help other FFA families. Our District is fortunate enough to have a great agricultural science center that includes several barns,” said Dipetta. “This time around, Katy ISD was the one to “lend a helping hand” but tomorrow we could be the ones receiving the help. With everything taking place with the Coronavirus, this is a perfect example of how “together we are Katy ISD.”
As for helping its students, KatyISD is made up of over 84,000 students, and around 35 percent of them are economically disadvantaged and are dependent on the free reduced lunch on a daily basis. With the closure of all KatyISD schools, many of these families are now struggling to provide three healthy meals to their children every day. But, with the help from the United States Department of Agriculture and KatyISD’s Nutrition and Food Service staff, “grab and go” meals are being offered for anyone in need of a cheap but healthy and balanced meal.
“In the first week of closure due to the Coronavirus, KatyISD served over 33,102 meals to Katy area families,” said Dipetta. “We know that many Katy ISD families depend on District services such as free and reduced meals. By providing the “grab and go” service, KatyISD hopes to support the need of our families during the closure.
The free “grab and go” meals are being offered during Katy ISD’s closure at 11 KatyISD schools. Readers can find a complete list of schools under the Latest News section when they visit www.katyisd.org
“Many families and students rely on these meals not only financially, but also to ensure children are receiving balanced meals and the nutrients to stay healthy,” said Dipetta. “And due to strict health department regulations, only KatyISD Nutrition and Food Service staff are handling the bags to ensure sanitation and freshness.
KatyISD experienced something similar during Hurricane Harvey, where many families lost everything due to the floods. KatyISD had opened shelters, gave out free food, and had to close school for several weeks. During such times, the community needs all the help it can get. Although the district will not allow volunteering at these “grab and go” centers due to health risks, anyone can help but others by spreading the word and maybe even providing a ride or carpooling with neighborhood children who do not have transportation.
“All meals are possible through the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), but we must not forget about the hardworking Katy ISD Nutrition & Food Service employees who have worked tirelessly to coordinate and prepare these meals every day. These individuals show up early to make sure the distribution site is prepared and well equipped and then they make sure meals are ready to go by 9 a.m every day,” said Dipetta. “The Food & Nutrition employees are cooking fresh warm food to ensure that students are receiving a hot meal and the nutrients they need to stay healthy.”