For six weeks in the summer, kids can line up at the school cafeteria, have their trays filled with nutritious food and visit with their friends at the lunch table. Just like when school is in session. Except that lunch is free, for children age 1 to 18.
On Monday night, the USD 382 Board of Education approved a six-week summer lunch program to be funded through the Federal Summer Lunch program. Superintendent Suzan Patton said she has been advised by the Kansas State Department of Education that reimbursements will pay for the program. In addition, she expects that some civic clubs will be willing to help. The Pratt Rotary Club has already offered to donate the proceeds of a weekly drawing during the current quarter for paper products.
"We will run it on a shoestring," Patton said, with a goal of breaking even.
A contract for Laci Brown, who is the secretary at Southwest Elementary, to serve as director, was also approved Monday. Patton anticipates hiring a couple of helpers and said the program would be a great opportunity for high school students in the KAY Club and National Honor Society to fulfill volunteer service requirements.
"It really does take a village," Patton noted, to offer a service to children and to parents who are working, families who are busy with Bible School and swimming lessons, and children participating in summer programs with the Pratt Recreation Department.
She estimated anywhere from 50 to 125 students participating on a given day, and said after the first week she will have a better feel for who is coming every day and how many to expect. Notes will be sent home with students to get a first-week count.
A bus will drop children participating in Pratt Recreation Department activities off at the cafeteria and pick them up after lunch.
Parents are encouraged to accompany young children and may eat lunch for $3.50.
The program is being offered from June 3 through July 12, which coincides with summer school at Liberty Middle School.
Because it is federally funded, the same nutritional guidelines apply as during the school year. Early in the 2012-13 year, as staff and students adjusted to new requirements for fruits and vegetables and calorie restrictions, there was some grumbling.
Participation in the lunch and breakfast program has not changed appreciably over the past five years.
Patton said she had made a point to do "walk-throughs" in the cafeteria and visit with students about their meals. Many have fresh fruits and vegetables from the salad bar on their trays, and say they like them. At the elementary level, however, students are not eating their veggies like they should, Patton said.
Page 2 of 2 - 102,527 lunches served YTD (March, 2013).
22,766 breakfasts served YTD.
210 PHS and LMS students said they would participate in a summer lunch program if offered. Numbers not yet available for Southwest Elementary School.
125 is the optimistic estimate for number of meals to be served each day in the summer.
In the process of getting kids used to trying new foods, preschool teachers hosted a family fun night last week.
"The kids ate pounds and pounds of fruits and vegetables, things they wouldn't ordinarily try," Curriculum Director David Schmidt reported to the Board.
In other business, the Board:
• approved republishing the 2012-13 budget to take advantage of an increase of $185,376 in budget authority resulting from an unanticipated enrollment increase by 47 students.
• approved new course offerings of world geography and economics in the social science curriculum. Current freshman and sophomore courses in civics and world history will be integrated within courses.
Geography and economics are receiving "elevated importance" by the Kansas Board of Regents, Schmidt said, and noted that students are graduating without an understanding of personal finance, which will be a part of the economics course.
• gave blanket approval for any career and technical education courses that may be available to high school students through Pratt Community College.
• approved the retirement of Pratt High and LMS band instructor Don Buhler, the resignation of Crystal-Kohman Smith as assistant basketball coach, the hiring of Carolyn Hawkins as a third grade teacher, Katty Borror as a substitute bus driver and Laci Brown as summer food program director.
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