IW School Board discusses free lunches, final exams

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Students who attend Isle of Wight County schools and are deemed eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches will be served the same meal being offered to all other students.

This division-wide policy, while not new, was recently codified in the School Board’s policy manual per directives concerning “reimbursable meals” from the Virginia General Assembly and Department of Education, and was discussed during a School Board work session on Monday morning. According to Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton, the new directives require each division to provide eligible students with a meal that meets nutritional standards set by the state in order for the schools to be reimbursed by the state for the cost of providing the meals.

“You couldn’t deny them [students] a lunch and you had to come up with a plan to get that money back somehow, without denying them a lunch,” Thornton said, explaining that a state-approved meal meant one that includes a fruit, a grain, a drink, and other staples of a balanced diet rather than a la carte or snack items. “Every one of those items has to be given for us to get reimbursed for a free or reduced-price meal, whether they [the students] like it or not.”

Thornton added that it was already the division’s policy not to deny lunches to students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and to provide them with the same meal being served to students paying full-price, and that this simply codifies that policy in such a way as to satisfy state requirements.

Another potential policy change the School Board is considering is doing away with final exams in some courses. If approved as-is, the policy, titled IKGA, would do away with any additional final exams in courses where students are given a Standards of Learning (SOL) test or industry certification test.

The School Board is currently surveying parents and teachers to determine how supportive or resistant each group would be to doing away with exams. Thornton said that preliminary results indicate that parents tended to be in favor of exams but teachers were more split, with a slight majority being in favor of the new policy.

School Board member Vicky Hulick asked during the meeting what teachers who give an SOL test would do for the rest of the year in their classes, since SOLs are typically given about a month before the school year ends. Assistant Superintendent Mike Lombardo replied that, if the policy were approved, the division would work with teachers to plan out the semester to keep their children engaged as the division transitions away from exams toward more project-based learning and deeper learning.

Several other division policies were also addressed during the meeting. Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of gifted services, community and media relations, said that the division recently created a new form the School Board is to use when amending policies to list specifically what revisions have been made and the reasons for doing so. Most revisions discussed during the meeting were minor changes intended to make the division’s policies better match those of the Virginia School Board Association.

“They [the VSBA] provide policy services to many of the divisions, including Isle of Wight County Schools, and they have created policies to make sure we comply with state and federal regulations,” she explained. “So by making sure our policies align with theirs, it also makes sure we are complying with state and federal regulations.”

Thornton also clarified that the term “policy” should only be used when referring to something division-wide, and not anything local to a specific school, which would more accurately be termed a “procedure.”