Morenci school board 2011.08.17

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci’s school lunch prices will increase this year as the district joins hundreds of others in meeting federal requirements.

After Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program were forced to take a look at their food service funding in regard to federal subsidies.

Research by the U.S.D.A. found that many schools are charging less for lunches than it costs to produce the lunch.

According to the U.S.D.A. report, “Pricing paid lunches below the cost of production effectively increases federal subsidies for higher income children because federal funds intended for free and reduced price lunches are being used to help fill the gap between what a paid lunch costs and what the school receives for it.”

Therefore, the report continues, children across all income levels are negatively affected by limiting the funds available to provide nutritious meals.

A funding formula results in a five cent increase for elementary school lunches to $1.80 and a dime increase for older student lunches to $2.10—the first increase in many years.

Districts will be required to gradually increase prices until reaching the national average of $2.46, with increases of no more than 10 cents a year.

District finance director Erica Metcalf noted that the district does have the option of taking revenue from another source to cover the cost difference, such as a transfer from the general fund 

Families have trouble covering the cost of lunches now, said school board member Phil McCaskey.

“I don’t see how we can do it,” he said. “The only way you’re going to get my support on this is if we do a proactive approach in the community to go out and touch base with people about the free and reduced lunch program.”

The maximum that can be transferred from the general fund, Metcalf said, is $25,000, however, the district is likely to encounter increased costs from meeting other requirements in the new lunch law, Nutritional standards are also changing, along with a requirement to make  drinking water to students in the cafeteria.

Increasing prices will affect about half of Morenci’s students since the level of free and reduced-price lunches stands at about 50 percent.

There are probably many people who don’t think they would qualify for free and reduced lunches, said superintendent Michael Osborne, because the standards are more generous than many people might think.

Pride is a big factor, McCaskey said, that prevents many families from taking advantage of the free and reduced-price program.

School board president Scott Merillat suggested contacting families when they get behind in lunch payments to make sure they’re aware of the free and reduced-price program.

“The $25,000 transfer is an actual cost of the food service,” noted board member Laura Spencer. “If our costs are going to increase and we’re not covering that $25,000 for overhead, it would make sense that we would want to cover that.”

Board members voted 4-1 to support the lunch price increase, with McCaskey in opposition. Ivy Hutchison and Gary Ries were absent.

STAFF—Two elementary teachers were recalled for the 2011-12 school year. Music teacher Keith Filipek and classroom teacher Chris Mansfield will return from layoff. Teaching assignments were not yet released for the upcoming school year as administrators continue to work through a budget deficit.

Freda Wright was hired as a full-time bus driver. She had previously worked as a substitute driver. Former classroom teacher Paula Grieder, who was laid off, was hired as Title I paraprofessional.

BIDS—Board members voted to accept a bid for milk from Prairie Farms; gasoline from Lightning Quick in Morenci; premium diesel fuel from Tri-County Fuel; and bread from Aunt Millie’s.

The bids mark a change from last year for bread and milk. McCaskey voted against the change in the milk supplier, noting that the former supplier, Arps, donates milk for some school functions. 

The change Prairie Farms will save the district about $4,000.

“I think we should take advantage of the savings or we’ll have to cut somewhere else,” Merillat said.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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