The Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education voted to approve a new federally funded program to assist with school breakfast and lunch, and heard a new, later, completion date for Smith-Cotton Stadium.
The Community Eligibility Provision is a federally funded program which will allow the district to offer free breakfast — which will be the same as the current Universal Breakfast program that was introduced last year — and lunch to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Parents can still choose to pay for their child’s lunch, or send a packed lunch from home.
The government will reimburse the district when 86 percent of students get a free lunch each day, only an increase of about 36 students, said Assistant Superintendent Steve Triplett. The program was used in 11 states last year, and was opened nationwide as of July 1.
There was a lot of discussion on the topic, including a question from board member Stephanie Lefevers regarding if using district reserves was an option to help families who are “on the line” — they make too much money to qualify for free lunch with the current program, but still can’t afford the reduced lunch price — instead of accepting more federal money. It was agreed it could be controversial to use taxpayer money to fund free meals for students, and that the program should be seen as an opportunity to help students and their families, not as a “handout” or something families are “entitled” to receive.
“It’s an opportunity for the district to provide a meal, similar to our Universal Breakfast program. Students can still full pay, if they wish they can bring their own lunch, but it is an opportunity to better serve,” Superintendent Brad Pollitt told the Democrat after the meeting. “I think there was some good conversation tonight, some of the better conversation we’ve had in a long time on that subject. We’re a conservative community and our school lunch program is already massively subsidized by federal money. This is just another opportunity to have more help with that for our middle of the road families that don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch, but at the same time if they’ve got two or three kids and paying $1.50 a kid, that’s $5 a day if not more and that adds up pretty quick. It’s an opportunity to help those kids out.”
The district will have to resign its contract with the program next year, so if the program doesn’t work out, the district isn’t locked into a contract for several years.
The board also heard an update on the progress of Smith-Cotton Stadium at Jennie Jaynes Complex, and Project Manager Dennis Paul, of Septagon, said the completion date has now moved to November, even later than earlier projections of late October. Paul said work has been “three to four weeks behind since May, and we’ve never made up that time.”
The location of the Smith-Cotton homecoming game is now in question, and will be decided during the Sept. 8 board meeting. Paul will give another update, and if enough of the stadium has been completed, the board will decide whether to host homecoming at the new, unfinished stadium, or at Jennie Jaynes Stadium.
“The board will have to decide if we’re going to play a game in a facility that’s not 100 percent complete or wait until it’s 100 percent complete, and there will be feelings on both sides,” Pollitt said. “The football community is very excited, looking forward to playing in the new stadium, and there may be some other folks that think it should be completed 100 percent before we go into it.”
So far the project is “under budget, no problem with that, it’s the timing that’s hard,” Paul said during his update. Masonry will begin next week on the upper walls of Building A, where the home locker room, concession stand and bathrooms will be housed. The foundation for the ticket booth will start next week and that project is slated to be finished in October. The track asphalt will be laid next week as well, and in a few weeks the artificial turf will be laid.
Before the board meeting, a tax rate hearing was hosted, as is required before school districts set a tax rate Sept. 1. Based on the district’s assessed valuation of $342,515,936, the tax rate ceiling, as set by the state auditor, is $3.2728 for the 2014-15 year. The district has chosen to levy $3.2728 in the Operating Fund to appropriately fund the operating budget and $0.6400 in the Capital Projects Fund to meet obligations for the new Smith-Cotton High School, creating a total levy of $3.9128.
The tax rate is determined by dividing the amount of revenue required by the current assessed valuation. The result is multiplied by 100, so the tax rate is expressed in cents per $100 assessed valuation.
During the meeting the board also:
• Approved the 2013-14 Annual Secretary of the Board Report.
• Heard evaluations on the Title III English Language Learners program and the Title IC Migrant program from Assistant Superintendent Nancy Scott.
• Approved the math curriculum for grades kindergarten through fourth.
• Approved the community eligibility provision, which provides an alternative to household applications for free and reduced meals for students.
• Discussed district policy updates.
• Heard about a donation from Duke Manufacturing.