PRCSD considers raise in lunch price

Published 1:53 am Sunday, April 5, 2009

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Pearl River Central School District is considering raising the cost of students’ lunches to keep up with the steadily increasing cost of food and food service expenses.

Food Service Administrator Sheila Amacker asked the board of education Thursday night to consider the increase for next year’s lunches, explaining that the district’s high number of paying students, 42 percent, is what is causing the deficit.

Amacker told school board members that for students on reduced price lunches and free lunches, the state reimburses the district $2.59. “We are in the hole 28 cents for every paid meal,” said Amacker, who said the school serves 391,000 lunches annually. “Even with the increase, we will still have a deficit.”

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Amacker said that last year the district saw a loss of between $40,000 and $50,000 because not enough students take advantage of the reduced and free lunch program. “If we could get more parents interested, that would be good,” said Amacker, adding that the federal income guidelines were fairly easy to qualify for. “A family of four would qualify for the reduced rate at an annual income of $39, 600,” said Amacker. 

Frustrated that the board was considering out-sourcing the school lunches, Amacker said that the cafeteria team had gone above required guidelines for the nutritional needs of the students, while also cutting costs. “We have been self-supporting for nine years,” said Amacker. “And the first year we have a deficit you are talking about out-sourcing.” 

Amacker said the goal of the entire cafeteria staff was to ensure the students had the best meals possible while holding costs to a minimum, adding that while the staff may have to scrub the pots a little longer and with a little more elbow grease to save on detergent, the products served to the students were better than at most schools.  

“We have more fresh produce, even though it is more expensive and has a shorter shelf life,” said Amacker. “We serve more grains, even though it is only a recommendation … We cut corners, but we’re setting the bar nutritionally. We’re nourishing their bodies so the teachers can nourish their minds.” 

Superintendent Dennis Penton asked board members to consider only the motion to raise the price of the lunches, admitting that he had been asked several times in the past by Amacker to raise it, but that he had vetoed it each time.  

Noting that he was aware the cost of food items was on the rise, as well as other areas needed to run the school cafeteria, Penton nevertheless asked the board to delay its decision. “I don’t want to change the rate just yet,” said Penton. “There are some rumblings of a change in reimbursement rates.” 

Board members approved a new dress code for the high school prom after hearing from parents on the prom committee. One mother told board members that she believes the new dress code was still modest, while also giving the students, especially the girls, more options in dresses.  

“We feel like it is a very realistic dress code,” she said, adding that the new code allowed a little more leeway in the length of the dress, as well as some in the bust area. “The no straps, the length to the middle of the knee, and necklines that go up to the neck are not really realistic anymore,” the parent said.  

The mother said the new code required the bust to be covered. “It calls for them to cover the bust, not emphasize cleavage, though there will always be some whose cleavage will always show some,” she said. “And they have to cover the abdomen from the chest to the pelvis and no lower in the back that it can show something.” 

The length of the dresses was modified also, from mid-knee to four inches above, and slits in the dresses can be no more than the four inches as well.  

The parents asked the board to please back them in enforcing the code, asking that if anyone changes their clothes after boarding the bus for Abita Springs, that the student be suspended out of school for two days. “So if you receive a phone call, we are asking you to back us,” said the mother.  

Board members agreed and approved the new dress code.  

Other business: 

— Honored two aschool district police officers for their volunteer efforts in the Hattiesburg area during the evacuation for Hurricane Gustav last year. The officers were given special humanitarian awards.  

— Honored PRC’s boys’ soccer team for placing second in division 8–4A. The team was one of two selected for the state soccer playoffs. Coach Joe Weems said the team finished the season 14-5-1 with a district record of 8–4. Weems said the team outscored their opponents 51 to 29, with six shutouts and holding four teams to only one goal. In addition, Weems said, three players scored in double digits through out the season, with Jacob Foulon and Brandon Lee selected to the Division 8–4A All District Team, while senior keeper Brant Graham was signed to a scholarship with Pearl River Community College Wildcats for the 2009/10 season. The team is coached by Weems and Coach Tim Anderson.  

— Honored the accomplishments of four PRCHS students involved in the Robotics competition. Mason Bechnel, Nick Kubicki, Will Parrish, and Rhett Unbehagen. The students placed second out of 31 teams at the Bayou Regionals and first at the Lone Star Regionals in Houston, Texas. The four students are now preparing for the national competition in Atlanta, Ga.  

— Honored PRCHS Future Farmers of America students for their vocational accomplishments at the regional competition. Roger Jordan won first place for Extemporaneous Speaking; Tool ID Team consisting of Michelle Deubler, Alexis Bonvillian, Amber Allie, and Courtney Meshell placed third; Welding Team consisting of Patrick Ferguson, Brandon Lee, and Mitchell Nelson placed third; the Tractor Driving Team, consisting of Brad Nichols and Rene Gonzales placed third; and Ryan Pope placed third for Creed Speaking.  

— Honored the Blue Devils Power Lifting Team which won the Regional 6 Championship for Class 4A. The team finished sixth out of 18 teams and two team members, Bruce Smith and Travis Landry won individual south state championships. In the 114 lb class, Bruce Smith placed first and Chase Mitchell placed third; 123 lb – first place went to Dusty Burge; 132 lb – JoJo Yates placed second; 148 lb – Cody Davis and Tyler Chambers each received fourth; 181 lb – third place went to P.J. Taylor; 198 lb – Clayton Yates won third; 220 lb – Jesse Miller placed second and Michael Pharr placed third; 242 lb – Travis Landry placed first and Colby Dillard placed fourth.  

— Honored the PRCHS Blue Angels, which attended three band competitions in the fall and received a superior rating at all three competitions. At the MHSAA festival, the band received a 94 out of 100 points.

Last Saturday, four members tried out for the 2009 American All-Star competition and were selected for staff positions. Those teens are Hayleigh McCardle, Hailey Lauzon, Kristina Williams, and Carly Salez. The officers won first place for their officer routine; Lauzon and Megan Varnado placed second for their duet; Lauzon also received first for her solo and Jessica Cox received second.

The team competed in three categories – Jazz, in which they received second, Pom, in which they were awarded first and first place for Prop Novelty.  The team, which consists of McCardle, team captain, Lauzon, co-caption, Williams, Lt., Matica Viera, Lt., Lauren Macdonald, Salez, Robyn Pascal, Kristen Ashe, Kelcey Whitfield, Angel Adams, Ashley Keene, Ashley Parker, Casie Marsh, Morgan McCormick, Varnado, Lacey Hampton, Shelbie McBeth, and Jessica Cox.