E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School will participate in free meals program

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County School Board voted on Wednesday to approve E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School’s participation in a program that would provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students in the school.

Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s community eligibility program, schools with a high enough population of low-income students can provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students, regardless of economic status. Students do not have to submit an application to receive the meals.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Catherine Bower, the chair of the school board, spoke in favor of the program. The School Board voted unanimously to participate in the program.

“I think it’s wonderful that all kids are eligible for this,” Bower said.

E. Wilson Morrison was one of two schools in Warren County that are technically eligible to participate in the community eligibility program.

But the other eligible school, Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, would receive a lower reimbursement rate on the program than E. Wilson Morrison. That’s because schools with higher percentages of low-income students receive higher reimbursement rates, up to a full reimbursement on every meal the district provides through the program.

Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher stated in an email that the district could afford to implement the program at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, which would receive a full reimbursement on about 91 percent of the meals it provides, under its current budget. The cost of implementing the program at Ressie Jeffries, he stated, would be too high for the district to afford.

“We do not have the funds available to do this” at Ressie Jeffries, Warren County Public Schools superintendent Greg Drescher stated in an email.

This is the second time that E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School’s potential participation in the community eligibility program has come before the School Board.

The last time it came up, during the board’s July work session, the Virginia Department of Education had not yet approved E. Wilson Morrison’s participation, so the School Board did not vote on the measure.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Melody Sheppard, the assistant superintendent for the school district, said that the Virginia Department of Education has since approved the district’s participation in the program.

The School Board’s approval commits E. Wilson Morrison to participating in the program for at least the next four years.

The board’s approval follows an announcement on Tuesday from the Winchester Public Schools that it will have all its elementary schools participate in the program.