Tara Garside, executive director of the Paris Senior Citizens Community Center, watched the news on the nation's coronavirus battle all weekend, and knew that it was becoming an intensely local issue.
By 11 a.m. Monday, she announced that the Paris Senior Center, effective Tuesday morning, would stop serving an average of 75 people who come to the center for lunch. However, to ensure that senior citizens receive meals, the center will offer curbside meals.
Garside said that senior center staff will deliver meals to patrons, who will not get out of their cars, while volunteers will deliver enough food for one week to Meals on Wheels clients.
“I struggled because this is a slow time for us. January and February have been tough because weather has forced us to close. We are behind financially, barely surviving,” Garside said. “But the health of our seniors is my top priority. So many of them are vulnerable. I had to so this for my seniors.”
On Monday afternoon, Garside said center staff members were thoroughly disinfecting every surface in the facility.
“We're cleaning everything,” she said.
Diana Hendrix, executive director of the Monroe City Senior Nutrition Center, said that her center will follow suit if Monroe City School R-I Schools close. If the schools close, the Nutrition Center will offer curbside meal service only. Meals on Wheels clients would still receive daily deliveries.
“Our goal is to keep our staff healthy so that we can take care of our homebound folks,” she said.
Meanwhile, early Monday, the Madison C-3 School District in far western Monroe County announced that classes are being called off at least until April 3.
“I struggled with this decision all night on Sunday, but this is what we need to do,” said Superintendent Zach Bruner, adding that the Madison School board unanimously supported the decision to close school. “The decision came down making the safety of our students, staff and our community the priority.”
He said there will be no sports teams practicing and no other school activities will take place, and that students and community members will be denied entrance to the building.
The temporary closure also will impact the Madison School Prom, which Bruner said will move to Saturday, April 18 from the original April 4 date.
Bruner said the district would still provide daily meals.
“Students on free and reduced lunches will have a free or reduced rate meal served as normal and students that pay the full price would still have to continue paying that fee,” Bruner said.
He said pick-up for the meals will be Wednesday, March 18, March 23 and March 30, between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Only parents or guardians of students under 18 will be allowed to pick up these meals due to guidelines the school district has been asked to follow.
Bruner said there will be three meals per student available on Wednesday, and five meals March 23 and March 30. Bruner said that parents need to reserve meals by calling 660-291-4515.
Other area districts – Ralls County Schools, the Paris RII District and Monroe City RI Schools – were still open as of Monday afternoon.