Lunch prices going up for district schools

School District 51 elementary school lunches will cost $2.35 beginning this fall, up from the current price of $2.

The Federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools that receive federal reimbursements for free or reduced-price lunches to charge students an average price for lunches that is high enough to, along with free and reduced lunch reimbursements, compensate for the cost of serving meals to all students. The federal government reimburses District 51 Nutrition Services $2.77 for every free lunch and $2.37 for every reduced-price lunch served at local public schools.

Students who pay full price for meals will have to pay an average of $2.45 nationwide in order for the school to keep receiving free and reduced lunch prices. To reach that average in District 51, Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp asked the school board Tuesday to approve an increase at the elementary school level.

Even though the elementary lunch price is 10 cents below the average required by the federal government, the district’s average meal cost will meet the requirement thanks to middle school and high school lunch prices remaining at $2.50 and $2.75, respectively.

Board members approved the price increase at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, as well as re-roofing contracts for Broadway, Orchard Avenue, and Pomona elementary schools. Broadway’s roof is 19 years old and Pomona and Orchard Avenue’s roofs are each 26 years old. The projects will cost a total of $476,704 out of the district’s capital fund.

The board also approved student fees for next year, most of which were unchanged from 2011-12 amounts. The noted exception was athletic fees, which increased by $20 to $70 at the middle school level and went from $110 to $140 per sport at the high school level. The sports fee changes were part of a list of general fund budget reduction proposals presented to the board Tuesday. The reduction plan in part compensated for adding one school day on Feb. 18, 2013, a change that will cost $607,000 and was also approved at Tuesday’s meeting.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said Tuesday the district may have to make more cuts if the federal government is unable to balance its budget by January. The district already anticipates a 3 percent decrease in Title I dollars for schools where more than half of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and a 13 percent decline in IDEA dollars for special education next school year. A 12 percent recision in Title I money and a 10 percent recision in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding are possible if the federal budget is not balanced in time, Schultz said.

So far, 15 special education technician positions were eliminated to help account for the decrease. Schultz said new technologies can replace most of the work done by the technicians.


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