LEXINGTON (CBS) — Schools have been forced to reinvent themselves in so many ways this year, but what do you do when half of the learning experience needs to be hands-on by definition?

At Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School in Lexington, students typically go to class one week then focus on work experience in their chosen concentration the next.

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During COVID restrictions, school leaders have had to innovate, and now that students are back part-time they’re also learning to pivot and reach out to their community. It’s become part of the lesson plan.

“It’s been different. it’s been a challenge if you can imagine a Regional vocational school which, were’ sort of built around hands-on learning, it doesn’t lend itself to remote learning,” said Superintendent-Director Edward Bouquillon.

So with half of the students in person and half remote, Superintendent Bouquillon and his staff were forced to get creative.

“Since October we’ve been partnering with Lexington Food Pantry and Food Link. Food Link is an organization out of Arlington. They rescue food and the students create meals that are then picked up later in the week and delivered to people who are food insecure or are in need of nutritional needs.”

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This partnership meant 3,500 meals for people in the area, and students motivated to help in their community. Some even got a fun name – the “Soup Group,” prepared meals for pickup — the same kind of flexibility that area restaurants have had to learn.

“To give the kids a taste of the real world,” Bouquillon points out “to make adjustments of business model of businesses that they own or work in.”

Ed says smiling student have been happy to be back…and give back.

It’s not just Culinary students – every program in the school is working on different projects like this. Ed believes this time is an opportunity to learn for the long haul.

“It’s going to be a while before we understand the full impact on kids but we know how to work with kids. We know that by connecting them with their passion, what they love to do here at Minuteman, it’s going to be a road forward that we are going to walk together. We are building resilience,  all of us.”

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The Soup Group serves several hundred people a week. Soup is ordered online and customers pick up on Thursdays with contactless delivery, it’s so popular they usually sell out by Monday or Tuesday. The program also raises money for a Scholarship Fund at the school.

Paula Ebben