All students in the Letcher County Public School System will eat breakfast and lunch free this coming school year.
“If we can break even, we can’t afford not to do this for our families,” Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft said this week during the May meeting of the Letcher County Board of Education.
The board on Monday night approved participating in a community eligibility option to provide the free meals to children during school days. The district will be reimbursed by the federal government for free and paid lunches.
“We hope we won’t go in the red and we think we can make it work,” said Craft.
Food services director Cora Sturgill said the district will participate in the pilot program for one year to make sure it doesn’t lose money.
“I strongly believe we can make it work,” said Sturgill. “The program is to feed kids. We have some bad times going on right now in the county. People are losing jobs every day. If we can feed those children, that is the right thing to do.”
Sturgill said several surrounding counties including Floyd, Harlan and Pike participated in the program last year and Letcher and Knott counties will be the latest to join the program.
“I’ve had several people in the community ask me about it because several counties around us are doing it,” said Board Member John Spicer.
Sturgill said a high school student would save about $350 a school year and an elementary student would save $306.25.
“It’s going to (provide) savings to people who need help as well as people who can’t afford to pay for lunch,” said Sturgill.
Adults will still pay for meals. Students will be charged for extra items. Sturgill said some high school students eat two or three sandwiches during one lunch period. Sturgill said about 30 percent of students ate breakfast last year.
Craft said the school day will be extended 10 minutes to allow students time to eat breakfast.
All parents of school-age children will be asked to fill out an economic information form that will be handed out at the beginning of the school year.
“And I think they will be grateful to do it just to be able to feed their children free,” said Sturgill.
Roger Martin, district director of federal programs, said information collected from the forms drives the district’s federal funding.
“It is so important for every parent to fill it out,” said Craft.
In other business at Monday night’s meeting, Craft recommended that the board accept draft proposals from local health care providers interested in placing nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants in the schools.
“We’re blessed with our arrangement with the health department,” said Craft of the current arrangement for a school nurse with the Letcher County Health Department. “There are some things the nurse can’t do.”
Craft said in some cases children would be able to see a nurse practitioner at school instead of having a parent miss work to take the child to a doctor’s office.
“They can write prescriptions,” Craft said of the nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. “It is a great opportunity for us to provide a service to our parents and also help our kids. They will bill insurances and we’ll provide the space.”
Board Member Sam Quillen Jr., a Neon dentist, finished the discussion by praising Craft for what he termed being innovative and thinking outside the box.
In other business, Pupil Personnel Director Kenneth Cornett said the district’s student attendance percentage has increased from last school year. For the 2010–2011 school year, the district attendance percentage was 92.43 percent. For the 2011–2012 school year, the district attendance percentage is 92.51 percent.
“Anytime you can have an increase over the previous year that is good news,” said Cornett.
Cornett said the district enrollment total decreased by 99 students during this school year. The district ended the year with an enrollment of 3,263.
Sherry Sexton, the district’s energy manager, reported that the district has saved $44,000 on electricity costs during the last 12 months, a period which included an unusually warm winter across most of the United States.
Asst. Supt. Twyla Messer reported that the maintenance department has been busy removing items from the now-closed Beckham Bates Elementary and will begin transitioning the Martha Jane Potter School facility as a kindergarten through fifth grade school and Fleming-Neon as a sixth through eighth grade school.
The board also:
• named Jackie Frazier, secretary for the Letcher County Credit Union, employee of the month.
• approved the second reading of a board policy pertaining to certified and classified holidays. Employees will be notified one week prior to any additional paid holidays by Craft. Craft suggested changing the policy regarding full-time employees who receive July 4 as a paid holiday from those who work more than 185 day to those who work 225 days.
“The people who are working year round should have that holiday built in,” said Craft.
• approved the Letcher County Health Department’s request to use the parking lots at Beckham Bates, Fleming-Neon and West Whitesburg elementary schools to hold rabies clinics on June 23.
• approved a request by Letcher County Central High School football coach Paul Rains to host a football academy at the LCC football field on June 11–15 and July 15-19.
• approved a request by Jessica Hicks, owner and operator of Flippin’ Out Gymnastics, to hold gymnastics classes at the Cowan and West Whitesburg elementary schools one day a week and three days a week at LCCHS.
• declared two outbuildings at Letcher Elementary School and lockers and extra items at Beckham Bates Elementary School as surplus items.
• declared the Beckham Bates Elementary School building and a tract of land as surplus property.
• approved 26 pay dates for the 2012– 2013 school year. Employees will be paid every two weeks beginning July 27.
• approved sending a BG-1 (buildings and grounds) project form to the Kentucky Department of Education signifying the beginning of the construction of a softball field, two tennis courts, a golf putting green and asphalt surfacing near the area at Letcher County Central High School.
Darrell Douglas, an architect with Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, told the board he hopes the project is at bidding stage by the next board meeting. Douglas said dugouts on the softball field will be moved back five feet to meet Kentucky High School Athletics Association requirements for hosting a regional tournament. The board also Codell Construction of Winchester to manage the project.
• approved payment of claims for construction of the Letcher County Area Technology Center to: GrayHawk LLC, $5,966.95; Allied Communications, Inc., $5,144.21; Gammons Skylight Systems, $42,665; and Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, $1,584.81.
• learned of the resignation of certified employee Brenda Adams, the LCC assistant dance coach, and the retirements of classifi ed employees James Baker, an districtwide instructional assistant II, and Vivian Banks, a cook/baker at Letcher Elementary School.
The board’s next regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on June 25 in the Lendell Smith Memorial Room of the Letcher County School Bus Garage.