PORT RICHEY — Pasco Schools distributed 5,101 meals on March 23, the first day of the student feeding program designed to feed children during the time that all Florida schools are closed due to concerns regarding coronavirus.

The count increased to 5,608 on March 24.

The School District opened seven feeding sites at schools for the week. Each site was open for a two-hour period, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The feeding program will continue in this drive-thru format for the rest of the week, through March 27.

Starting March 30, Pasco will put in place a different process, which will provide meals via school buses at numerous stops throughout the district.

“Words cannot express my thanks to district staff that came out today to make sure that our kids don’t go hungry,” said Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning, who helped hand out food at two of the school sites. “Parents and kids were grateful for the meals that we provided during this really strange time. We had a good plan and we executed it to perfection.”

Classes will resume for students via the internet on March 31, and Browning announced plans to provide devices for families who may not have the equipment to access the distance learning classes.

“We already know we do not have enough devices for all students to check out,” Browning said. “So, we have to do our best to put them in the hands of students that truly need them.”

He noted there are many families who may have a device, but have more than one child.

“I understand the challenge, so we are happy to provide one device for every two children,” Browning said. “If after the initial hand out on March 30 we have devices remaining, we’ll be more than happy to provide additional devices to a family,” he added. “But, first we need to get them into the hands of families who have no computers at home.”

Those families who will be getting a device will go to the school their children attend. Grades 6 – 12 will check out devices from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Grades kindergarten through 5 will check out devices 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Browning said schools would be communicating to parents exactly how the process will work on that day, including a schedule and place for the pick-up points designed to avoid creating a crowded area.

He asked that only one family member be sent to pick up the device in order to practice “safe social distancing.”

“Elementary students will need a listed parent or guardian to pick up their device,” he added. “Higher grade students will be allowed to pick up a device on their own.”

A one-page quick guide will be provided to help parents and students get started with the workings of distance learning.

“We have a robust plan in place and, with everyone’s help, we’ll make it work,” Browning said.

He emphasized participation in the classes “is not optional.”

“Our campuses will be closed, but classes will be in session March 31 and we will be expecting all of our students to be engaged and learning,” he said.

The superintendent said the district has already been successful with district learning with its award-winning Pasco e-School.

“We have been able to build on that model,” he said. “The only difference is in the magnitude.”

Browning emphasized these are “extraordinary times we are living in and we are being challenged in ways we never expected.”

“From what I have seen so far, I am confident we can handle just about anything,” he said. “We have more challenges to come, but we have already shown though the success of the student feeding plan that by working together we can get the job done.

The district has a webpage devoted to its coronavirus plans at www.pasco.k12.fl.us/coronavirus.