2017-06-28 / School News

School board continues free meals for students

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board approved continuation of free breakfasts and lunches for students in all county schools through the county’s enrollment in the Community Eligibility Program. Their action came at their June 19 meeting.

The free student meal program began in 2012 and was in place then for all county schools except Berkeley Springs High School. The high school was added in 2013 when it became eligible when grouped with other county schools.

Child Nutrition Director Kristie Randall said that she was able to get higher meal reimbursement rates with one grouping of county schools on their application this year due to the state’s recent inclusion of Medicaid recipients in the percentage of students that are directly certified for free and reduced meals through Department of Health and Human Resources services.

Morgan County’s 77.74% meal reimbursement rate percentage includes the 1.6 multiplier that’s used to calculate the percentage of students that may qualify for services through DHHR or Medicaid but that aren’t receiving them. The county’s percentage of DHHR/Medicaid direct certified students is 48.59%, Randall said.

The program is running $43,552 to the good because of increased student participation, she said. Superintendent David Banks estimated that families with one child save around $500 a school year with the free breakfasts and lunches.

Randall said that student participation in the free breakfasts had risen with the grab and go breakfasts and breakfasts in the classroom. She said Paw Paw Schools had a successful breakfast after first period option.

Benefits

The free student meal program benefits homeless children, foster children and every child in the county and helps struggling families make ends meet, Randall said. Prior to 2012 some families with multiple children couldn’t afford to have their kids eat breakfast and lunch at school because of the expense now those kids eat school meals every day. Students are more academically successful if they eat breakfast, she noted.

School Treasurer Ann Bell said that the free meal program costs them a lot less to operate and is paying for itself. The program also reduces the workload. They don’t have employee and billing costs from trying to get families to pay outstanding meal bills. It’s a win-win situation and all the kids get to eat, Bell emphasized.

Physical therapy services

The school board also approved a contract for the provision of physical therapy services with Mountain State Home Rehab, Inc. for the 2017-2018 school year. Special Education Director Joan Willard said that around 25 students currently receive physical therapy services at school and foresaw several more students being added this school year. Rankin Physical Therapy had been approached as a local provider but they didn’t have staff available to help them, Superintendent Banks said.

School calendar

Banks said that while the school calendar hasn’t been finalized yet due to a bill passed by the West Virginia Legislature about accrued instructional time, that the opening day of school for staff and students will not change.

The first day of school for students will be August 21 and the first day for staff is August 16 under the previously approved 2017-2018 school calendar.

Schools are still waiting for guidance from the state Department of Education on the legislation, which allows accrued instructional time to be used to make up snow days, two-hour delays, and early dismissals and to provide staff development.

A draft 2017-2018 school year calendar was posted online at the county school website. A final version of the school calendar will be posted when schools learn how the accrued time is to be incorporated into the calendar.

Soccer field

School board vice-president Aaron Close said that he’d received a certificate of completion from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection that the Alex Rickli Memorial Soccer Complex soil remediation was completed according to standards. Three soccer fields have been built there and a fourth field would be constructed soon. Construction bids are being reviewed.

A new playground and mulch has been installed with volunteer help from Berkeley Springs High School students. It’s a successful project and has been a long time coming, Close said.

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