Quarter more for school lunch?
The price of lunch at Mitchell's schools may go up 25 cents to help the district combat rising costs.
The Mitchell Board of Education heard about the idea Monday night during its regular meeting at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy. The lunch prices were a discussion item as part of the board's budget discussion, so no action was taken.
The increases would bring the price of lunch to $2.65 at the district's elementary school, $2.85 in the middle school and high school, and $3.70 for an adult.
The school will make an extra $37,000 for every 10-cent increase, meaning a 25-cent increase would create $92,500 in revenue, according to district Food Service Director Sean Moen.
Business Manager Steve Culhane compiled lunch prices for other Eastern South Dakota Conference schools, and Mitchell would be tied for second-highest. An elementary lunch at Aberdeen would also cost $2.65, while Brandon Valley and Harrisburg each charge $2.55 and Brookings charges $2.45. Huron charges a conference-high $3 for an elementary lunch. The conference average is $2.50 for elementary students. Mitchell's proposed $2.85 for middle and high school students would be close to the ESD average of $2.70 and $2.79 for middle school and high school lunches, respectively.
The school expects to close out the fiscal year on June 30 with $956,000 in expenses on food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and supplies for the 2013-14 school year, coming in over budget by $81,000. The deep dip into the food service reserves is expected to leave just $25,937, down from the expected $152,854.
For the 2014-15 budget, $1 million is proposed for food expenses.
The increase in expenses has been related to new federal government requirements, which have required schools to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables and serve whole grain breads, which cost more.
Board member Deb Olson called the new requirements "a mandate that's not funded" by federal sources.
"They're not showing us the money," said fellow member Neil Putnam.
Moen said during Monday's meeting that the increase would cost a family $44 more per student for the entire school year. He said he's committed to keeping the lunch program on a self-sufficient path, so that it doesn't need to be paid for from the general fund and thus take away educational dollars.
"We can't keep going at a dime per year," he said. "We need to react more and get some of the money back, so we can continue to operate."
Moen said there was a small decrease in lunch participation, but it bounced back.
"We hear that, anecdotally, all the time," Superintendent Joe Graves said. "'That's it, done with school lunch.' But the numbers are not bearing that out. I've spent a lot of time in the last semester walking through elementary and middle school cafeterias and talking to kids. Kids are not unhappy at the elementary and middle school level."
High schoolers, Graves added, are the most flexible, because most of them can go home and eat if they choose.
The school's summer lunch program is successful, serving more than 350 meals per day, and according to Moen, that shows the meals are popular even when parents may have another choice.
"It speaks to the quality of the meals," Olson said. "People aren't going to come if you're not going to have a good quality of meals."
The board dealt with the following personnel items.
• Resignation: Kendra Mastel, para educator, effective June 5.
• New hires (K-12): Alyssa Anderson, middle school language arts at $36,083, effective 2014-15 school year; April Miller, senior high language arts at $37,000, effective 2014-15 school year; Nikki Hora, middle school/high school Spanish at $39,000, effective 2014-15 school year.
• New hires (MTI): Sarah Duff, student success coach at $35,000, effective July 21; Justin Hauge, welding and manufacturing technology instructor at $45,000, effective July 7.
• New hire (classified): James Lyall, maintenance for eight hours daily at $13.06 per hour, effective June 16.
In other business Monday, the board:
• Learned about a grant received from CenturyLink, which will benefit a poster campaign for Second Chance High as organized by Mitchell's photography and visual design students.
• Approved, on second reading, the regular review of school board policies 1000-1200 and Board Policy 513, regarding first aid and the use of epinephrine auto-injectors.
• Approved the Transportation Alternative Program resolution between MTI and the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
• Authorized supplemental budget items from the 2013-14 K-12 school year.
• Approved a supplemental budget for MTI from the 2014 fiscal year, including $408,000 for furniture for the Trades Center, $290,000 for hail damage repairs, and $1.08 million for projects funded by state grants.
• Approved the bid for two basic refrigeration trainers and a gas control demonstrator for the MCTEA Academy; The recommendation is to make the purchases from Hampden Engineering of East Longmeadow, Mass., at a cost of $35,359, which will be covered by a CTE grant from the state of South Dakota.
• Approved the bid for a new gym floor at L.B. Williams elementary school; the bid is $79,000 from School Speciality Inc., of Mansfield, Ohio, and would be similar to the recently installed floor at the high school, replacing the current tile floor.
• Approved the purchase of 2,716 yards of carpet for Gertie Belle Rogers and L.B. Williams elementary schools at $28.44 per yard for a cost of $77,243.04.
• Heard board member and superintendent reports.