The Harlan Independent School Board approved a program during a meeting on Monday that will result in all Harlan Independent students eating for free next school year.
Superintendent C.D. Morton brought up the free meal program shortly after the meeting was called to order.
“This is the one I am the most excited to talk about,” said Morton. “It’s the Community Eligibility Program.”
Morton called on Director of Student Services Emily Clem to bring the board up to speed on the program.
“It’s the program…where all students eat free,” Clem said. “The way you get reimbursed for that is based on your direct certification students.”
Clem explained the percentage of students on government assistance such as SNAP benefits, or direct certification students, plays a major role in eligibility for the program.
“The higher percentage of DC students you have, the more meals you can claim at the free rate,” Clem said. “What you lose in doing this is you lose the money the parent’s pay (for meals).”
Clem advised the board the entire school qualifies for the program.
“There are different options we could do,” said Clem. “We could take it through the fourth-grade, or we can take it all the way through 12th-grade.”
Clem pointed out there are advantages for making the program school-wide.
“It’s better for our school for everybody to eat free,” Clem said. “It would be a bad scenario if you go all the way through fourth-grade, and then fifth-grade you have to start paying.”
Clem pointed out 40 percent of enrolled students must be direct certification students to be eligible.
Board Chairman Joe Meadors asked Clem if the numbers were there to allow the entire school to eat free.
“I feel like we are,” replied Clem. “It’s a gamble, but they do have a calculator to help project. I’ve used the calculator.”
Clem explained she examined the figures using the month of March as a guide.
“If everything stayed the same…it’s saying that we would make – if we went school-wide – around $700 more a month. I think if we go free for everybody we’re going to have a lot of kids eat that don’t normally eat.”
Clem said she felt it would be feasible to provide free meals school-wide.
“It would be my recommendation that we do the Community Eligibility provision K -12 for the 2016-2017 school year,” Morton said.
The board passed a motion approving free meals for all students next school year.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde