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When students head back to school in August, they could have to pay a bit more for their breakfast and lunch.
At Taylor County schools, those who qualify for reduced lunches won’t have to pay for them at all.
At last week’s regular Taylor County Board of Education meeting, Food Service Director Gertie Graves told members she has tried to keep lunch prices affordable, and remembers only one increase in lunch prices during her time at the District.
However, Graves, who will retire on Friday, said an increase is necessary for the upcoming school year.
Graves said all school districts in the state must abide by new paid lunch equity requirements included in the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010.
In the new requirements, the average cost of paid lunches is compared to the federal reimbursement for free and reduced lunches. If the comparison doesn’t meet an average price, the school isn’t compliant with the regulations.
At Taylor County School System, Graves said, those who pay for their lunch at Taylor County Elementary School pay $1.50. At Taylor County middle and high schools, students pay $1.75.
Graves said the District receives 26 cents in federal reimbursement for paid lunches, which means it receives $1.76 and $2.01 in revenue from paid lunches at the elementary and middle and high schools, respectively.
Students who qualify for reduced lunches pay 40 cents, she said, and the District receives $2.37 in federal reimbursement for a total of $2.77 in revenue.
For those who receive free lunches, Graves said, the District receives $2.77 in federal reimbursement.
She said those figures mean that the District receives $2.77 in revenue from reduced and free lunch students and only $1.76 or $2.01 in revenue from those who pay full price for their lunches.
Graves said Districts that charge less than $2.51 for paid lunches are required to adjust their average lunch prices to bridge the gap in revenue between paid and reduced and free lunches or they could lose federal funding.
“They’re in essence making us raise the price,” she said.
Graves presented Board members with a survey of local school lunch prices, to which Taylor County was one of the lowest.
She said the District received a waiver for last school year so it did not have to abide by the paid lunch equity requirements. However, she said, the District must comply for the 2012-2013 school year.
When using a provided formula, the District could raise its lunch prices a dime each, going to $1.60 at the elementary school and $1.85 at the middle and high schools, and be compliant.
“Reluctantly, I recommend that we increase prices,” Graves said. Superintendent Roger Cook said the District will lose $69,000 in federal funding per month if it doesn’t comply with paid lunch equity standards. The increased prices will still keep the District at one of the lowest in the area.
“It’s what we have to do.”
Board member Lilian Clark made a motion to approve the increases, which Jim Cheatham seconded and was unanimously approved.
To help with the increase, Graves said, the District has the option this upcoming school year to waive the cost for reduced lunches. She said this might encourage some parents to see if their children qualify for reduced lunch.
Cook said that would be beneficial.
“It costs the District money when they don’t apply,” he said.
Graves said she doesn’t know if the District will be able to waive reduced lunch fees for more than one school year, so she believes it should take advantage while the option is there.
According to Graves, enrollment at the Taylor County School System last school year was 2,690 students. Of those, 262, or 9.74 percent, qualified for reduced-cost lunches. Nearly 48 percent, or 1,283 students, received free lunches.
In all, 57 percent of Taylor County’s students received free or reduced lunches.
Campbellsville Independent Superintendent Mike Deaton was out of town and couldn’t be reached before press time.
Pat Hall, chair of the Campbellsville School Board, and Jeff Richardson, food services director, say school lunch prices for the Campbellsville District will be discussed at next month’s meeting, which is open to the public.
Cook said the search to replace former TCES Principal Brian Clifford is ongoing. Clifford resigned earlier this month and has accepted another principal’s position in Glasgow.
He said there have been fewer than 10 applications for the position and site-based decision making council members are developing criteria they are looking for in a new leader.
Cook said a survey has been posted on the TCES website at www.taylor.kyschools.us for parents to complete. He said parents have also received a phone call about providing their input.
“I think we’ll get a really good candidate,” he said. “I want to make a good, careful decision.”
Cook said he has received several phone calls from people who have said they want to be a part of the Taylor County School District because of its innovation.
He said he realizes it could be difficult finding a candidate willing to go from a school of 400 students to 1,250, the largest elementary population in the state.
“For the same or less money,” he said. “It will be a hard sale.
“I feel very confident that we’ll find a good person. If not, we’ll appoint an interim and look again.”
Cook said he would like to have a replacement for Clifford named by July 1.
The TCES site-based decision making council met on Friday afternoon to review the results from principal surveys, develop interview questions and screen applicants.
• For more from the meeting see Thursday’s issue.