School lunches get another 10-cent bump

By Meghan Gutzwiller
Times Correspondent

Another year, another bump in prices for kids in Monticello — and all across the country — to eat their school lunches.

As part of the federal government’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, Monticello school district business manager Elaine DeWenter said all schools must bring their lunch prices up to the price that the federal government currently reimburses for a low-income student’s free/reduced lunch price, which currently sits at $2.51. To work toward this mandated price, Monticello will be raising its meal prices by 10 cents for next school year. Meal prices will be increased from $1.20 to $1.30 for breakfast, $1.95 to $2.05 for elementary lunch and from $2.10 to $2.20 for middle and high school lunch. DeWenter said the district would need to continue to incrementally increase lunch prices through 2015 to get to the necessary price point.

In addition to the higher prices, food service manager Joe Happe said there also are quite a few new guidelines for healthy school lunches. Happe said he will give more details as he finds out more information, though he did say the new guidelines will add cost to the meals and that the higher prices will help offset these costs. Additionally, Happe said the school has seen increases on food prices, such as a 7-cent increase per carton of milk in the recent past.

Board chair Scott Hill stated that this increase is strictly in response to the new laws by the federal government, and Superintendent Jim Johnson pointed out that food service funds can only be used for food service and cannot be transferred into the general fund, so the district is not using the higher lunch prices to fund any other aspect of the school’s budget. He said fund balances in the food service fund pay for fixing or replacing kitchen equipment and appliances, which he said are usually very expensive items.

The new 2012-2013 lunch prices were approved 6-0.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard a presentation from Linda Borgerding, director of curriculum and instruction, on the new testing methods given to the school district’s English Learners (EL) students. The district currently has 120 English language learners, 83 percent of whom speak Spanish with the other 17 percent speaking 13 other languages.
  • Eliminated Title I paraprofessional and compensatory paraprofessionals for the 2012-2013 school year. These are positions Johnson said they expect to add back once they receive word about their Title 1 funding levels.
  • Heard a legislative update from Johnson regarding the state government’s omnibus supplemental education bill. Johnson covered a new law that will allow 10th-grade students to take a limited number of post-secondary education options (PSEO) courses; previously, the law allowed only juniors and seniors this option. For those who do not have transportation, the district would be required to provide this at their expense. Board members discussed how this would be very difficult for a sophomore to do while still keeping pace with all the courses they are required to take for graduation, and they said it only strengthened their resolve to maintain and strengthen their college-level coursework options so students feel that they can stay in high school without disadvantage.

    Johnson also discussed additional teacher CPR and AED training and some minor changes to food service equipment purchasing. Some of the things that were considered but did not pass include: the ability for districts to start school before Labor Day, a proposed payback of the school funding shift to 70.2 percent, a proposal to eliminate teachers’ “last-in-first out” seniority policy and legislation that would have required both the employer and the employee approve participation in the Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP), where currently only the employees need to request participation to take part in this program.