School lunch prices going up; breakfast still free

photo by Vickie Carpenter

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

The Macon County School Board met Tuesday, June 25, for its regular monthly meeting.

Nutrition program facing rising prices

The new school year is just around the corner and so are higher lunch prices.  The 2019 -2020 meal prices are increasing by 10 cents.  A meal costing $2.65 for a K-4 student will now be $2.75. Meals for students in 5th-8th grades will go from $2.85 to $2.95 and lunches for High School Students will increase from $2.95 to $3.05. David Lightner, School Nutrition Director, cites rising costs of supplies as a reason for the increase. 

“SFAs (School Food Authorities) are self-supporting programs,” said Lightner.  “What a student pays for meals plus reimbursement from the USDA is what the SFA has to operate on, pay bills, payroll, equipment, etc. To help keep cost as low as possible, Macon County Schools is part of the North Carolina Procurement Alliance, applies for equipment assistance grants when available, and looks for any other opportunities to operate with fiscal responsibility.” 

Breakfast will still be free for all students and reduced price lunches will remain the same at 40 cents.  Applications for free and reduced lunch can be obtained online using a cell phone, tablet or computer.  Hard copies of the application will be sent out at the beginning of the school year for anyone preferring to complete a hard copy, or for those who do not have access to the internet. Parents may also come into the School Nutrition Office, by appointment, to complete an online free and reduced application.  Applications may be completed any time during the school year but they must be completed each year. 

Budget issues continue to affect the School and Nutrition Program’s operating equipment. Equipment at Franklin High School needs to be replaced. 

“Specifically a much needed steamer has met its time” said Lightner.  “It is rusted out.”  The cost for a steamer is $24,000. Another steamer at Highlands School will soon need to be replaced also. 

The Leader in Me Program going strong at Iotla Valley 

Iotla Valley Elementary School will have a new motto along with a new walking track this year. The walking track will be located in the front of the school and both students and the community are free to make use of it.  The student and faculty handbook will be changed to reflect the new Mission Statement. “At Iotla Valley, our mission is to nurture, challenge, and empower all of our students to find their voice”; and the School Motto will be “Inspire, Others, Through, Leadership, Actions.”  Principal Michelle Bell, in accordance with the “Leader in Me” initiative,  is calling for better parent involvement. She clarified: “Parent involvement means the participation of parents in regular and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities, including ensuring:

• Parents play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning;

• Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s education in school;

• That parents are full partners in their child’s education and are included, as appropriate, in decision-making and on advisory committees to assist in the education of their child;

• The carrying out of other activities, such as those described in section 1118 Of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act).”

Driver’s Education provider reinstated

In other business, the School Board voted to reinstate Western North Carolina Driving School (WNCDS) to continue to provide Drivers Education classes to eligible students. In the past there had been one Driver’s Education teacher servicing several hundred students. The waiting list was long and with WNCDS there are more instructors, so students don’t have the long wait time as they did in the past. 

Continuing budget issues still being worked out

Budget issues were still being worked out at the last meeting,  and the board has not approved a final budget. Some issues to be dealt with are the covered walkways at Highlands School and FHS with $145,000 needed to make repairs at both schools. The maintenance department shared this estimate with the School Board Members but Dr. Baldwin would like to get some quotes from various businesses in the community before deciding how to proceed. 

Community volunteer program exceeds expectations

On a positive note, Dr. Baldwin spoke about the public school’s volunteer hours. As of this date, 10,584 hours have been recorded, for volunteers at all public schools. He noted the number may be higher as some volunteers may not have been counted yet.  Dr. Baldwin remarked that without volunteers Macon County schools would not function as effectively and gave a big shout out to the remarkable number of volunteers who have helped out in schools this year. Volunteers help in many ways to do what teachers and other personnel would never have the time to do.