by Audrey Thomasson
CLARAVILLE—While schools grapple with the debt caused by families unable to pay their child’s cafeteria bills, one citizen stepped up to help fill the gap.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, District 3 resident Carl Perez offered a monthly contribution.
“Other counties have community help with costs rather than offering an alternative meal,” said Perez. “I’d like to help out by giving $50 a month.” In addition, he said another contributor is offering $100 a month.
According to director of instruction Amy Lamb, the central office has been monitoring the alternative meal program. This year they decided to stop the practice and feed everyone the same meal.
“We will never serve an alternative meal in Northumberland schools,” said Lamb. “We will work at the school board level to help.” She thanked Perez and said an account would be set up for public assistance on lagging accounts.
Superintendent Dr. Holly Wargo noted the alternative meal program was stopped because it shames children by separating them with a meal that is different than the one being served to all the other students.
“It’s been my observation since the economy tanked in 2008 that many families are still struggling and cannot afford to pay,” Lamb said after the meeting. While some students qualify for free or reduced lunch prices, Lamb said even the reduced price is beyond some families’ ability to pay.
The price of a school breakfast for all students is $1.40. Lunch is $2.50 at the elementary school and $2.60 for the middle and high school.
Cafeteria workers have been known to pay for students’ lunches and in some instances, anonymous donors have paid off outstanding accounts, according to Lamb.
In other business, school principals reported the number of students enrolled at their schools. The middle school reported enrollment of 284, while the elementary reported 578, including pre-K.
Dr. Travis Burns reported 428 students at the high school.
“There are 91 seniors,” he said. “Sixty-three are on the advanced diploma track, 21% have a 4.0 GPA and 56% have a 3.0 GPA or better.” He noted a few juniors could be eligible for early graduation.