Geneine Martin and her grandchildren Gabe and Anabella Railey enjoy 2019 “Thanksgiving lunch” festivities for students and relatives at Pegram Elementary School. SEAN BARRY

This week is traditionally the one during which parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gather with students in Cheatham County school cafeterias for a Thanksgiving-style meal and festivities.

But “Thanksgiving lunch,” traditionally held the Thursday before the holiday, has become another casualty of COVID-19 this year.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to invite family members into the schools this year for the annual Thanksgiving lunch,” school district spokesman Tim Adkins said in an email.

It was an administrative decision rather than a school board vote, though the decision is consistent with the district’s policy against large gatherings, Adkins said.

Students ate a Thanksgiving-style meal without the company of relatives in Cheatham schools last Thursday, Adkins said. The students sat in a socially distant setup as they do during other school meals.

Last year for Thanksgiving lunch, school district Nutrition Director Tracy Hopkins was busy operating the cash register at Pegram Elementary School’s cafeteria.

“This is way more than we’ve ever had at this school,” said Hopkins at the time, later running a report showing 147 guests were served, plus 177 children.

Thanksgiving lunch is traditionally carried out in all Cheatham schools, though the elementary schools are the busiest, Hopkins said.

It’s not clear when the tradition started, though officials and residents say it goes back decades.

In the PES cafeteria last year, smiles and laughter were the order of the day for people like Geneine Martin and her grandchildren Gabe and Anabella Railey.

Students and relatives were invited to share what they were thankful for by writing down their thoughts on leaf-shaped paper cutouts to be taped to a tree mural on the cafeteria wall.

“I am thankful for my family and my cousins and God,” wrote one student, Kimberly.

“I am thankful for how nice my family is,” wrote Brian.

“I am thankful for my mom, dad, dog and pizza and more,” wrote Annelise.

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