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School lunches headed up 10 cents

Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm

MILFORD – A school lunch could cost an extra 10 cents next fall, bringing it to $2.45 a plate in middle and high schools and $2.20 in elementary schools.

The Caroline County School Board unanimously gave preliminary approval to breakfast and lunch price increases at its April 15 meeting. The panel will take a final vote on the price increases at its regular May 13 meeting.

“I’m sorry it has to go up,” said School Board chairman Nancy Carson.

Lunch prices could increase yearly by 10 to 15 cents until they are $2.70 by the 2015-16 school year for middle and high schools and to $2.50 for elementary schools, according to a memo from Superintendent Greg Killough to the School Board.

The cost of buying school lunches in middle and high schools could increase from the current $423 a year to $486 by the 2015-2016 school year. The annual cost could go from $378 in elementary schools to $450 during the same time.

Breakfast could also increase next fall by 5 cents to $1.40 for middle and high schools and $1.35 for elementary schools.

The price increases are necessary for compliance with federal requirements under the Equity in School Lunch Pricing section of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. To comply, the School Board also had to increase lunch prices by a dime a plate last year for the current school year.

“Polling of surrounding counties indicates they are looking at a 5 to 10 cents increase as a result of section 205 of the HHFK Act,” Killough wrote.

The increase will affect a lower percentage of students in Caroline than some surrounding counties, according to state Department of Education statistics. In Caroline schools last year, 43.4 percent (1,809 students) of the 4,164 students were eligible for a free lunch, according to the state agency. That percentage is only 15 percent in Hanover, 23.6 percent in King George, 27 percent in Spotsylvania and 28.3 percent in King William,

Federal law stipulates that schools charge students for a paid meal at a price that is on average equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement and paid meal reimbursement. Schools that charge less are required to gradually increase the prices to meet the federal requirements. The formula also factors in inflation.

The federal law was written after a study showed that in many school districts, the federal reimbursement for free and reduced price lunches was offsetting the cost of paid lunches. This was to the point that a paid lunch sold for less than it cost to produce the lunch. This indirectly increased federal subsidies for higher income families who paid for their children’s lunches.

For the 2014-15 school year, lunch is likely to increase to $2.35 for elementary schools and $2.55 for middle and high schools, according to Killough’s memo. For the same year, breakfast is likely to go to $1.40 for elementary schools and $1.45 for middle and high schools.

For the 2015-2016 school year, breakfast could be $1.45 for elementary schools and $1.50 for middle and high schools.

Around the state, current county school lunch prices range from $3.10 in Loudoun County to $1.60 in several counties.

In other action, the board voted to withhold part of the next monthly payment to Loughridge & Co., which is doing a $10 million expansion and renovation to Bowling Green Primary School. The board voted unanimously to hold back $69,500 of the $476,997 payment because of problems with a new concrete floor at the school.

Heavy rain fell on the concrete before it had cured and before workers could cover it, said David McConnell, school clerk of work. “I have concerns,” McConnell said. “I’m going to make sure it’s done right.”

Board member Mack Wright Jr. initially proposed that the board hold back $115,000 “so we’re not stuck with substandard floors.” He reduced his suggestion to $69,500.

Loughridge will re-do the floor this summer and it should be shiny enough to be reflective like a mirror, McConnell said. Loughridge managers “want it done right because their name is going on this,” he added.

The expansion and renovation of Bowling Green Primary will allow the consolidation of nearby Bowling Green Elementary School.

The board approved spending $25,000 to enter into a contract for the continued use of OWPR Inc. for architectural and engineering work to develop plans for renovations to Madison and Elementary and Caroline High School. The firm was hired to price out the projects and develop preliminary plans and make presentations at up to five public venues. The company will assist with efforts for a proposed a bond referendum of $25 million to $30 million for the two projects.

The board voted unanimously to direct Killough to move forward with developing a plan for a child care program in elementary schools. “We would get a daycare to come in the morning and afternoon,” Killough said. The daycare would not work for the school division but instead would charge fees directly to parents.

In other action, the board approved:

• A grant application to continue 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

• The special education annual plan.

• The updated five year educational technology plan.

• The updated acceptable computer use policy.

• A Perkins Grant, which will provide an estimated $68,932 in state funds for improving career and technical education and focusing on industry and workplace readiness skills.

• Payment to Calico Industries Inc. of Maryland for equipment to furnish the kitchen area of the new kitchen and cafeteria of Bowling Green Primary. The estimated cost is $153,697 and includes such items as a $4,135 electric food slicer, a $7,241 double gas convection oven, a $14,202 electric tilting kettle, an $8,182 pass-thru refrigerated cabinet and a $6,245 heated serving counter.

• A motion by board member Mary Anderson to develop a student leadership group at Caroline High School with the principal, Charles Stevens. The board had discussed developing a plan to place a student on the School Board but opted for having ties with more than one student. The student leadership team will have representatives at School Board meetings.

Under new business, the board gave preliminary approval to:

• Getting bids for a division-wide heating and air conditioning contract.

• An initiative to start a volunteer program with a volunteer coordinator in each school.