Starting this fall, all students in Ashe County Schools who are not eligible for free or reduced price lunch will pay an additional 10 cents for school lunch.
To comply with a federal rule, part of the ‘Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,’ the Ashe County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to increase the price of school lunches for the 2012-2013 school year.
“The federal government and the USDA have mandated that we increase the price gradually through the coming years,” said Ashe County Schools Coordinator of Child Nutrition Angie Thompson. “They (USDA) feel like the paying child should be paying as much as the reimbursement (subsidy) for the free and reduced lunch student.”
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law in December 2010, funds school nutrition programs through 2015, and sets new nutrition standards for schools. In addition, the bill allocates more than $4.5 billion dollars to implement the programs.
However, according to a USDA memo provided by Thompson the rule also, “Requires school fund authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the non-profit school food service account for meals served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.”
In essence, the law requires that schools must ensure that students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch prices pay the same as the reimbursement rate provided to schools for students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
Over the course of the 180 day school calendar, each student will pay an additional $18 for lunch. The price of lunch in the county’s three elementary schools will increase 10 cents to $1.85. Ashe County middle and high school will increase to $2.10.
Over the course of the year, elementary school lunch price will rise to $333 annually, while middle and high school students will pay $378 annually in 2012-2013.
“We were supposed to do it (increase the price last year),” said Thompson, “but we took the slap on the wrist and waited until this year to do it but, this year they’re making us do that.”
Board members also voted unanimously to approve a bid to begin work on the wireless infrastructure at Mountain View Elementary, Westwood Elementary, and Ashe County Middle School this summer that will enable quick, seamless access to the Internet in all county classrooms.
“This will put wireless in the schools remaining that do not have a wireless infrastructure,” said Director of Technology for Ashe County Schools Amy Walker.
Currently, only Ashe County High School and Blue Ridge Elementary have an up-to-date wireless infrastructure.
The work, to be completed for $133,812, will enable all county schools to better utilize technology in the classroom, according to Ashe County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Travis Reeves.
“We’re at a transition in technology where our needs are constantly growing,” said Reeves. “Wireless infrastructure is one of those items that needs reviewing every five years or so, and sometimes sooner.”
Reeves said the new wireless infrastructure will also be a welcome addition to the classroom.
“If teachers aren’t sure their technology will work when they need it, it kills confidence in the classroom,” said Reeves. “It’s harder to utilize technology and try new things if they (teachers) feel like it’s not going to work.”
Reeves said the wireless infrastructure is also an important component of preparing the school system for new state mandated on-line assessments that begin in 2013.
The mandates are outlined in the ‘North Carolina State School Technology Plan 2011-2013,’ a comprehensive plan to improve student performance in NC public schools through new tools and instructional technology. Part of the plan includes on-line student testing and assessments.
“One benefit of what we’re doing is that we will be ready for on-line testing in the future,” said Reeves. “This new wireless infrastructure is not entirely trying to get ahead of the on-line assessments. Our everyday technology needs are to the point that we need to have ubiquitous wireless access throughout the system, but we are always trying to look ahead and plan for the future, too.”
Reeves said he’s appreciative of the efforts and funding the Ashe County Board of Commissioners has provided Ashe County Schools over the years.
“The funding to complete this infrastructure work came from the county commissioners, and their support of technology in our schools,” said Reeves. “For that, we’re extremely grateful.”
Ashe County Schools has formally requested an increase in 2012-2013 funding from the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to help offset the loss of more than $2 million in state and federal funding lost over the last three years.
Over the last several years, state and federal funding has allowed the county’s schools to essentially maintain a full complement of teachers, assistants, and programs. This year, however, federal stimulus funds have run out and last summer the North Carolina General Assembly did not renew a temporary three-quarter of a cent sales tax enacted in 2009 that provided over $800 million in funding for the state’s public education budget.
In 2011-12, Ashe County Schools received $3.6 million from county government, and an additional $125,000 after Reeves addressed commissioners in July of last year, asking for help to fill a $1 million budget gap. In 2010-2011, according to Ashe County’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan, local funding combined with state and federal funding, in addition to the Child Nutrition Program, Local Fund 8 grants, and the local capital outlay, the system’s total budget was approximately $35.5 million.