NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — It looked like a walk down the red carpet as students at Jenkins Elementary School walked the sidewalk into their school Tuesday morning.
There were cheers from the First Baptist Church members, hand shakes and high fives from Police Chief Steve Drew, School Board member Shelly Simonds, school administrators and more.
They’re especially excited about two new programs this school year.
First, the police department is starting a new mentorship program. Chief Drew told WAVY.com that his day-shift officers will each be adopting an elementary school and will spend at least 30 minutes a week with the kids, himself included.
“It’s just really important that those young people see us as people who care about them. I love these guys, I value them, and they need to know that,” he said.
Chief Drew is already making plans to have a meal with students, and
speaking of lunch, it’s free for every single student in the district this year.
“I think the thing that is the most exciting about it is it takes the stigma away from some students who are receiving, who are part of the free lunch program, so that everybody is eating and everybody is having that experience together,” Simonds said.
The free meal program is paid through the USDA. Parents are expected to save about $50 a month per child. The change also means the thousands of dollars in student lunch debt from the last school year is erased.
Other school districts like Hampton, Portsmouth and Norfolk have several schools enrolled in the program.