The Cleveland City School Board on Tuesday approved a motion to apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision. The CEP allows school systems that have more than 40 percent of its students participating in the free and reduced lunch program to offer free school meals to all of its students.
Supervisor of School Nutrition Susan Mobley told the board that the school system would be reimbursed according to the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, with that number being multiplied by 1.6 percent. The rest of the cost of the free meals will be made up for my using non-federal revenue streams. Board member Richard Shaw asked if this program came with any strings attached, to which Director of schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff replied, "No, there are no new regulations.”
Ms. Mobley suggested to the board members that they try give the program a one-year trial and Dr. Ringstaff agreed, “We can participate in it as a pilot program. I think that it is well worth the risk for the chance for all of our students to eat for free,” he said.
Nutrition Supervisor Mobley said that since the CEP uses information from other programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that students and parents would not have to fill out any additional paperwork, thus reducing some of the stigma that comes with being on the free and reduced lunch program.
Board member Peggy Pesterfield said that she has often wondered how many high school students choose not to eat because of the stigma. Ms. Mobley stated that the number of students who eat lunch at school does decrease significantly during the high school years. Dr. Ringstaff said that this could help many families fill in the gaps and “If it works, great, if not, we’re out.”
Ms. Mobley also informed the board s that a School Nutrition program needs a non-discrimination policy, as this is required in order to be in compliance with federal regulation. Ms. Mobley said that it is her responsibility to make be sure that the School Nutrition Department is specifically mentioned in the school system’s non-discrimination policy. Dr. Ringstaff said that the new policy needs to be in step with the USDA’s and that this would help clean up, or make more specific, the language concerning civil rights.
In reviewing the USDA’s policy, board member Steve Morgan said that he felt that the language used by the USDA seems like an over-reach, “A program designed to feed children should not be used to push an agenda,” said Mr. Morgan
The only significant difference between the school system's current non-discrimination policy and the USDA’s is the inclusion of sexual orientation on the list of possible basis for discrimination. Dr. Ringstaff suggested that the board take some time to look over the new language so that the policy can be reviewed again in June.
The board also approved a motion to make Maintenance and Transportation Supervisor Hal Taylor the project manager for the Cleveland High gym project. Mr. Taylor will be handing off some of his regular duties to an assistant in his department for the duration of the project.
Brian Templeton of Upland Design Group reported to the board three official bids were submitted and that J&J Contractors of Chattanooga submitted a bid for $319,000, of which $20,000 will be used as a contingency. Mr. Templeton said that most of the sub-contractors that J&J chose will be local to Cleveland and North Georgia. The board approved a motion to accept J&J’s bid at Mr. Templeton’s suggestion.