Just days before the start of school, Jonathan Alder school officials are taking steps to help the districts food service program stay afloat.
At a special meeting Thursday, the district’s board of education approved a reduction in hours for all food service staff as well as the elimination of a part-time assistant cook position.
District officials said they currently expend $43,284 a month on salaries and benefits in the food service department. Officials said that by cutting hours and eliminating the position they can reduce the overall food service operating expenses by 35%.
Superintendent Gary Chapman said the decision was “incredibly difficult although necessary to provide and sustain an essential service for our students.”
Board member Steve Votaw said the move is “something we had to do.”
The decision was necessary because the food service department is operating in the red. District treasurer Aaron Johnson said that despite a $50,000 advance earlier this year, the food service department is in the hole more than $62,000. Johnson said that by the end of the month, the deficit could be as high as $75,000.
In addition to the reduction in hours and personnel, the board approved a $75,000 advance from the general fund.
“Hopefully this will be the last advance we will need to make,” Johnson said.
Chapman said the food service program is, “a critical part of supporting our students overall health, well-being and academic achievement.” He said that for more than a decade the department was completely self-sustaining.
He said the district would not need the reduction, “without the shutdown in March.”
Johnson explained that since COVID-19 closed schools in mid-March, “we received little to no revenue into that department so that has put us into the red.” He said revenue from lunch and breakfast sales are the only way to off-set the costs associated with operating a full-service school lunch program.
Officials said that with the schools at half capacity for at least a portion of this year, there will be less students and staff buying lunch and breakfast. They said they anticipate an operating deficit for the upcoming school year due the loss of lunch and breakfast participation and revenue.
Even so, district officials will monitor the department revenue in hopes they can restore the cuts. Johnson said the district does not want to “go too far because we don’t know what type of participation we might have.”
Votaw said the district and the department needs to “be flexible.”
Chapman said that is the plan for everyone in the district. He said building principals have been meeting for some time. He said departments have also been meeting. Teachers returned to the buildings this week.
“We have some new challenges that we are facing, but I could not be more proud of our staff and administration as far as the work they are doing this week,” Chapman said.
He said everyone is “a little more anxious, a little more nervous” but the shutdown has brought some new perspective.
“I can say this, ‘We are going to cherish every moment with our students,’” Chapman said. “That is what we are all looking forward to as we get back.”
Students were supposed to return to school earlier this week, though the date was pushed to Monday so the district could better prepare for health and safety protocols.
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