Then-fifth graders Levi, Cameron, Dane share a fish lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary in 2017. The “Grab and Go” menu might not be so upscale, however. Phil Burdick says meals will be designed to be heated and served at home. (Emily Russell/KCAW)


Note: The schedule for the Sitka School District meal program has been change. Read an updated story.


The Sitka School District will be distributing free breakfast and lunches during the state-mandated school closure.

Co-assistant superintendent Phil Burdick says “Grab and Go” meals will be distributed from the high school beginning 8 A.M. to noon, Monday, March 23.

Note: Take the survey to apply for the Sitka School District “Grab and Go” meal program.

The meal program is the first step toward preparing the district for holding school remotely, should the closure remain in effect beyond the end of the month.*(See note below.)

“We have a survey that we’re asking all Sitka School District families to fill out, which will include their food needs as well as what technological capabilities they have in their household for if and when we go to distance learning, and also school supply needs,” Burdick said.

So far, only 200 families have signed up for meals, but Burdick expects this to change once the word gets out. In fact, he’s expecting to revise Grab and Go almost as soon as the district rolls it out.

“As fast moving as this all is, I would plan on it being totally different on Tuesday than on Monday,” he said.

The district is offering the meals to all Sitka students, plus any youth under the age of 19 in the same household. Island Bus Company is assisting with deliveries to any families who lack transportation — or who may be under quarantine. In theory, each kid who pulls up at the drive-thru will be handed two bags: One for breakfast, the other for lunch. Nana Management is the district’s food service contractor, under the supervision Executive Chef Jo Michalski.

Burdick says some of her near-legendary entrees are probably NOT on the menu during the coronavirus emergency.

“Well, Chef Jo has been amazing,” Burdick said. “Oh my god I’m so impressed with her organizational capabilities. Because it’s Grab and Go we don’t really have the ability to make hot food. So it will be food that people can heat at home.”

Although children are supposed to personally collect their meals, some may not be able to. Burdick says the district is prepared to be flexible, and has sought a waiver from the state to allow the food to be handed to a parent or other adult for delivery to kids at home.

There’s no model for the school to follow: They’re inventing it on the go.

“We’re developing a model based on what’s working for us and the amazing partners that we have with the bus company and with Nana,” Burdick says, “but what I’m hearing from other superintendents around the state in other communities is that this is the new model of some sort of distribution center, some sort of delivery (as much as we can). I think lots of school districts are getting amazingly flexible and brilliant about serving families.”

The state has ordered schools closed until March 30.* Burdick says the district is prepared to run the Grab and Go program — as even some  academic programs — should the closure extend beyond that date.

*Note: Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday evening (3-20-20) issued a mandate ordering all public and private schools in the state closed to students through May 1, 2020.