Isle of Wight school lunch prices remain unchanged

Published 12:54 pm Saturday, August 12, 2017

Isle of Wight County Schools will absorb a 10-cent increase in the cost of providing lunches rather than pass that cost along to students. The county’s school board voted unanimously at its August meeting to keep the division’s lunch prices at their current rates of $2.45 for elementary students and $2.65 for middle and high school students.

The 10-cent increase is mandated at the federal level by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires school divisions to review and adjust paid meal prices annually at a 2-percent increase plus the Consumer Price Index of 2.64 percent, for a total increase of 4.64 percent. When this mandated increase was applied to Isle of Wight’s current lunch prices, the result was a 10-cent increase or $18 per year per student, assuming each bought lunch every day.

Other options for funding the increase included passing the entirety of the cost onto students, exempting those who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, or imposing a 5-cent increase and absorbing the remaining cost by adjusting the division’s budget. As a result of choosing to absorb the entirety of the cost, the division will need to transfer approximately $14,000 to its food service fund.

“We’re going to have to go through the budget and make a decision of where to take that from,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. “Basically, we’re going to rob Peter to pay Paul. We have to make those decisions throughout the year. Hopefully, there aren’t too many and — hopefully — not all are in the direction of costing more.”

David Price, the division’s child nutrition supervisor, explained in a memorandum to the school board that an error in the U.S. Department of Agriculture spreadsheet led him to incorrectly conclude in May that an increase in the cost of lunches for the 2017-2018 school year would not be required. The Department of Education informed him of the error on July 25, which is what necessitated making this last-minute change to the division’s budget. Thornton said he felt the school board made a wise decision considering that school starts in less than a month.

In other business, Thornton presented the school board with a first look at the division’s new Strategic Plan. Heather Tuck, the division’s new director of career and technical education, presented an update on the division’s in-house course offerings for the coming school year.

The Strategic Plan, which is also available to the public on the division’s website under the “about us” and “quick links” tabs, specifies six priorities. The first is to continue the division’s ARC reading program and extend it to third grade and special ed students in middle school and high school. The second is to continue to implement the “five Cs” and develop focus documents to get all schools consistent. The third is to focus on deeper learning more so than projects. The fourth is to expand graduation and career pathways for students, including the new CTE program. The fifth is enhancing the learning environments in schools, to include new furniture, paint and building maintenance. The sixth is continuing professional development for teachers and staff.

Tuck presented data on enrollment in the division’s new in-house CTE courses compared to enrollment from the previous school year at the Pruden Center in Suffolk. According to her data, enrollment for cosmetology at Windsor High School increased from two students during the 2016-2017 school year at the Pruden Center to 22 students, who will be taking the course at Windsor High. Culinary arts at Windsor increased from one in 2016-2017 to 25. Welding increased from five to 13 and nursing increased from one to 24.

The only CTE course to show a decline in enrollment since moving in-house at Windsor was agriculture, which dropped from 227 to 102. But Tuck explained that this could be a result of students at Windsor interested in CTE having a lot more programs from which to choose this year.

The school board concluded by approving four special education advisory committee members and two foreign exchange students.