Area school lunch prices on the rise

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL — School lunch prices are on the rise.

Regulations from the Healthy, Hungry-Free Act of 2010 require school divisions participating in the National School Lunch Program to ensure that sufficient funds are provided to account for students not eligible for free or reduced price meals. Schools that charge less than $2.65 for paid lunches are required to adjust the weighted average price or provide additional non-federal funds to cover the difference.

At a Thursday night work session for Warren County Public Schools, Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard brought three possible scenarios to the school board’s attention.

The division could either increase elementary lunch prices by 10 cents and middle and high school lunches by 5 cents, increase elementary lunches by 5 cents and middle and high school lunches by 10 cents or increase elementary lunches by 15 cents and leave middle and high school lunch prices unchanged.

The first option, “Scenario A,” would increase elementary school lunches to $1.90 and middle and high school lunches to $2.

School board member Joanne Cherefko said she preferred this option.

“In Scenario C, your elementary schools are taking a big hit,” she said. “A 15-cent increase, that’s going to jump out at some people.”

Board vice chairwoman Kimberly Athey agreed, expressing concern about whether most students are paying with cash.

“Because if they were, I would go with [Scenario] A,” she said. “It would be a whole lot easier to carry around two $1 bills than $2.05 or $1.95.”

Currently, paid lunches in Warren County cost $1.80 in elementary schools and $1.95 at the secondary level. The division’s elementary school lunch prices are third lowest among surrounding divisions behind Page and Rockingham counties and are tied with Shenandoah County for second lowest high school lunches behind Page County.

Shenandoah County Public Schools will increase its lunch prices by 10 cents next year, to $2.05 in both its elementary and high schools.

Frederick County Public Schools will also increase its lunch prices by 10 cents, to $2.40 in elementary schools and $2.65 in middle and high schools.

The meal price increase is required for school divisions to continue receiving federal funding in the free and reduced lunch program.

“The act allows school divisions to gradually raise the price of lunch until a minimum rate [of $2.65] is reached,” said Sheppard, noting that Fauquier County Public Schools already charge $2.65 for high school lunches.

Sheppard will present Scenario A as an action item at the next school board meeting on June 12.

Rob Ballentine, director of finance for the division, said this is probably the third year the division has increased its lunch prices. He said a nickel increase over a 180-day school year equates to $9.

Also at its meeting, the school board approved a request to appropriate and allocate the money from its fiscal 2013 operating budget surplus. The surplus of $1.3 million would be used to cover a variety of needs.

A total of $452,968 would be appropriated to the fiscal 2015 operating budget to be used for:

  • $204,968 for network infrastructure replacements such as switches, routers and servers
  • $200,000 for two replacement buses
  • $26,000 for an additional bus lift
  • $19,000 for two replacement mowers
  • $3,000 for a security ID badge system
  • A total of $13,000 would be appropriated to purchase materials and supplies for career and technical education in the current year’s operating budget.

    A total of $162,752 would be appropriated to the division’s textbook fund, and $624,000 would be appropriated to the division’s health care fund.

    The School Board also approved:

  • Selecting the rate of 7.81 percent certified by the Virginia Retirement System for fiscal year 2015
  • Awarding a contract of $28,744 to Ricoh USA Inc. for the lease of two copiers at Ressie Jeffries Elementary
  • Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com