Morenci school board 2012.08.15

Written by David Green.

Morenci’s board of education is reluctantly increasing student lunch prices again this year by a nickel to meet federal requirements.

A recent review by auditors recommended a 10 cent increase, but the board’s Building and Site committee went with the minimum five cent increase. Another five cent jump is likely next year, said superintendent Michael Osborne.

All schools receiving commodities through the national school lunch program are required to meet a minimum lunch price.

Board trustee Phil McCaskey asked if the district is taking a proactive approach in notifying parents of free and reduced price lunch eligibility.

Income guidelines for eligibility are probably lower than most people think, he said, and a parent can be unemployed for only a short amount of time and still qualify. Even if both parents are working in low-wage jobs, income guidelines would probably make the children eligible. Currently, about half of the district’s students receive free or reduced price lunches.

With many people there’s an issue of pride, McCaskey said, and he went through it when he was unemployed. It’s easier for students with the current lunch payment process, he said, because other students can’t tell who is getting the discounted meals.

Teacher Melissa Elliott said she wasn’t aware of all the details. If teachers learned more about the program, they could mention it to parents during the October parent-teacher conferences.

Board president Scott Merillat said he’s heard complaints from middle school students that there isn’t enough food when it’s their turn to eat. Teacher Sally Kruger added that it’s the fifth and sixth grade students who are the last ones through the serving line.

It’s not a case of being completely out of food, said assistant principal Phil Stark, but the main item of the day sometimes runs short before everyone is served.

Osborne said he would talk to the food service staff about the quantity of food available.

RADIOS—Like law enforcement agencies across the country, schools that use radio communication are also facing the need to replace old equipment with new radios. The existing radios will no longer function at the end of the year due to a Federal Communications Commission mandate known as “narrowbanding.”

Replacing the radios used on Morenci school buses is expected to cost at least $10,000.

Radios are used frequently, said district finance director Erica Metcalf, when drivers are keeping track of “latchkey” students, when students get picked up by a relative and aren’t on the bus, when students have drop-off schedules that vary through the week. It’s not as simple as it was when board members were riding the bus, she said.

Due to the cost, McCaskey said, he would like to find out more about how often they’re used and if any alternatives exist.

Cellular phone reception is very spotty, Metcalf said, and three different carriers might be needed for one bus route. It’s illegal for bus drivers to use a cell phone while they’re driving, Merillat added.

“We need to provide a way for drivers to communicate with the school,” he said.

PARKING LOT—Several holes in the high school parking lot were patched, which should last over the winter, and any additional holes will be filled with cold patch. The overall condition of the lot is not bad, Merillat said, but a repaving project would have to wait until a school bond was passed by voters.

Metcalf told the board that members need to continue thinking about a bond proposal to cover the school’s physical needs. She’s spoken with some staff members to collect information on work that needs to be done and purchases that need to be made.

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • 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.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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