Elementary students to get free lunch in fall

Sean C. Morgan

School District 55 elementary school students will not need to pay for breakfast or lunch next school year.

The School Board Monday increased prices by a dime for the junior high and high school menus and learned that all four Sweet Home elementary schools had received approval from the Oregon Department of Education for free meals.

No families will need to submit applications for free or reduced lunches at the elementary level.

Sweet Home is participating in a new program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, which allows qualifying schools to serve free meals to all students regardless of family income status.

Sweet Home’s schools qualified based on the number of households that qualify for free or reduced lunch, said Business Manager Kevin Strong. Next year, the district will be able to reevaluate Sweet Home Junior High for the program.

He thought at first that there’s usually a catch, he said, but there isn’t. Under this program, in addition to the poor, elementary students from a family that earns a quarter million dollars per year will still receive free breakfast and lunch at school.

The old rules for the federally funded nutrition program still apply, Strong said, and because of that, the prices for lunch need to increase.

The federal government is worried that if the district is charging less than the reimbursement cost for free lunches it is subsidizing affluent families, Strong said, so the district must increase prices by at least a dime.

The board voted to allow the increase 6-0. Present at the meeting were Leena Ellis, Chanz Keeney, Dale Keene, Chairman Mike Reynolds, Jason Redick and Jenny Daniels. Absent were Jason Van Eck, David VanDerlip and Kevin Burger.

The full price for lunch, charged to those who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches, at the Junior High will increase to $2.35. At the high school, the price increases to $2.50.

In other business, the board:

n Appointed Reynolds to chairman. Redick has finished four years in the position, and the board appointed him to vice chairman. He succeeds Dale Keene. The board appointed Ellis to secretary. She succeeds Reynolds.

n Held off approval of an addendum to the superintendent’s contract.

Following legal advice, Supt. Don Schrader told the board that a provision in the contract it approved last month should have been approved in an “amendment” or “addendum” rather than included in the contract.

Last month, the board approved a contract with the provision that it would consider increasing the superintendent’s salary in January following an evaluation.

The board decided to hold off on a decision until next month to research whether the board could discuss the information in the the superintendent’s evaluation. Keeney had asked for the composite summary of the evaluation, so he could discuss the information in the publicly released document.

Schrader said he wanted discussion of his evaluation kept in executive session, which is closed to the public.

It was something the board couldn’t discuss last month when it approved new contract language with the superintendent, both Daniels and Keeney said.

Board members received a copy of the addendum electronically but not in paper form. Daniels and Ellis wanted to receive it on paper. Daniels explained that she hadn’t seen a copy of the proposed addendum until Monday night.

As a result, the board agreed to hold off approval for a month, and authorized the board’s executive committee to consult with attorneys to determine how much of the public superintendent’s evaluation may be discussed in open session.

n Accepted the resignation of speech-language pathologist Alison Epperly.

n Hired Chelsea Augsburger, .65 FTE district literacy coach; Scott Bozich, high school integrated science, biology and chemistry; Nicolyn Honeyman, high school language arts; Cynthia “Jane” Lake, Oak Heights special education-Opportunity Room; Connie May, .3 FTE literacy coach; Dave McNeil, high school science; Kayla Robbins, .5 FTE Foster and .5 FTE high school special education and autism teacher; Judy Thomas, high school special and alternative education; Deidra Spencer, high school science; and Mark Looney as high school assistant principal.