U-46 mulling breakfast after bell program
Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are still mulling the implementation of a new state mandate requiring feeding hungry low-income students breakfast after school starts.
It requires schools with 70 percent or more students eligible for free and reduced lunch to implement a Breakfast After the Bell program in the fall.
Nineteen of 40 elementary schools are eligible for the program. Yet, district administrators are fighting the mandate and urged the school board Monday night to approve an exemption on the basis that the program would be too costly to absorb.
It costs U-46 about $875,000 to provide breakfast before the start of the school day serving 3,700 meals per day at the elementary schools through the federally mandated School Breakfast Program. State and federal reimbursements cover roughly half the cost while students pay a portion.
The district loses about $245,000 yearly on its regular breakfast program and that would increase to nearly $300,000 if Breakfast After the Bell were implemented, U-46 Chief Operations Officer Jeff King told the school board.
"We would like to opt out of the program," King said. "This will not have any impact on our current breakfast before the bell program."
King said the district is eligible to opt out of the program if 70 percent or more of students are eating breakfast already. But participation in the regular breakfast program is nowhere near that threshold.
"Currently we are at around 22 percent eating breakfast," King said. "This is not including the impact on education."
King estimated roughly $680,000 worth of instructional time would be lost yearly -- roughly a 10-minute delay in the start of instruction per classroom daily for about 880 classrooms across 19 schools.
The district currently provides breakfast after the bell for students at some of its secondary schools, which would not be affected.
"In elementary schools, it is much harder to deliver the program and clean up afterward," King said.
Only one person from the public spoke in favor of serving breakfast after the bell during the public hearing Monday.
Deborah Moyer, a high school math teacher, said $300,000 is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the district's budget.
"It seems like you are punishing them by withholding breakfast just because they aren't there before the bell," she said. "It's unfair to punish the students for something over which they have no control."
She added, classroom teachers are smart enough to figure out how to incorporate those 10 minutes into the school day.
The school board will vote on a resolution on the program exemption April 24.