Lunch staff laid off, teachers fundraise

SPA%27s+cafeteria+staff+pose+for+their+picture+in+the+yearbook.+Because+of+COVID-19%2C+all+of+the+cafeteria+staff+were+laid+off.+%22The+whole+outbreak+began+just+as+we+started+our+Spring+Break.+Learning+over+SB+that+we+would+not+be+returning+was+a+shock%2C%22+executive+chef+Stephen+Boese+said.+

Ibid Photo: Ganga Corsaro

SPA's cafeteria staff pose for their picture in the yearbook. Because of COVID-19, all of the cafeteria staff were laid off. "The whole outbreak began just as we started our Spring Break. Learning over SB that we would not be returning was a shock," executive chef Stephen Boese said.

In the chaotic week leading up to spring break, students and teachers were focused on preparing for distance learning and canceling vacation plans. While it was rumored that COVID-19 would only lead to two weeks of distance learning, the whole school was wondering what this would mean for their daily lives. For cafeteria staff, the news would be even more unsettling.

“Learning over spring break that we would not be returning was a shock,” executive chef Stephen Boese said.

SPA’s cafeteria staff are contract employees who work for Taher. The company, founded in 1981, has decided to suspended meal services. As a result, lunch staff have been furloughed, leaving them unemployed and uncertain about what the future might hold.

“We are on ‘laid off status’ and using unemployment benefits to survive,” Boese said.

After hearing about the layoffs of the Taher Cafeteria Staff, LS teacher Libby Arnosti, MS teacher Diane Mancini, and US teacher Mollie Ward wondered what they could do to help.

“We were wondering about the Taher employees and feeling concerned about how they were doing,” Ward said.

On April 29, Arnosti, Ward, and Mancini launched a GoFundMe to raise money to buy grocery store gift cards for the Taher staff.

“In normal times, the Taher cafeteria staff at SPA provides delicious, healthy meals, and a sparkling clean space for the students, faculty, and staff to enjoy their lunch break. Due to the interruption of school by COVID-19, our cafeteria colleagues have been sidelined,” Mancini wrote in the fundraiser’s description.

In the first two days, they have raised $2,675, more than half of their goal. The GoFundMe will be accepting donations until May 8.

Two other groups of contract employees — the security and cleaning staff — are still working in the building.

UPDATE: The Go Fund Me, which closed May 8, raised $8,565, surpassing its original goal of $4,000.