Montrose Area offering free meals to all students

Montrose Area School District began offering free meals to all students on Monday, Oct. 3, a program that will continue through the remaining of the school year.

At the Monday, Oct. 10, school board meeting, Superintendent Chris McComb explained that the district applied for and was approved through the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), to provide the meals.

“The cost was made more manageable with the increased reimbursement rates and the governor’s announcement (in September) of free breakfast for students,” McComb said. “The board was generous enough to fund the program.”

“There’s nothing more important than making sure our students are fed,” McComb added.

Board member John Wood said he hopes to “make it permanent, like it should be,” which elicited nods of agreement from other board members in attendance.

The meals offered, and provided by The Nutrition Group, meet both federal and state guidelines, including requirements that students take servings of a fruit or vegetable at both breakfast and lunch as one of their meal items.

The district also announced a “pack and carry” option that allows students who pack a lunch to pick up a serving of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk to round out their packed items.

Ala Carte items – such as an extra entrée, a snack option, or milk only – must pay for those through the student account.

The principals of the three schools asked the board to consider additional funding for after-school clubs, establishing those clubs with either a adviser stipend or an hourly rate payment. The clubs, according to all three building principals, were popular last year and students are interested in continuing participation this year, as well.

Board member Gloria Smith said she felt there is a huge need for the clubs – especially after Covid. “There’s a huge need for that,” she said, adding the district’s natural gas money should be used to cover the costs. “I feel we should do it.”

Jr-Sr High School Principal Eric Powers said some club possibilities include a Games Club, Guitar Club and, perhaps, Powerlifting.

At Lathrop Street Elementary, a Computer “Retro” Games Club, as well as a Disney Club, have all had student interest. Last year, according to Lathrop Street Principal Patrick Matthews, about 100 students participated in an after-school club activity.

Last year, Choconut Valley Elementary offered up “Manic Mondays” and “Wacky Wednesdays” as after-school activities with a significant number of students involved.

Other club ideas in the schools include a computer club, intramural basketball or a yarn club.

Board member Richard Jordan said, “With the gas money we are getting, there is nothing we should deny our students.”

Smith added, “We are in the ‘business’ of children. There is a need for this in the community.”

Board member Paul Adams estimated the yearly cost of additional clubs at around $15,000, and – while supportive – reminded the board that “we are still in a deficit and need to stay disciplined.”

In the business meeting, the board approved:

*employing Sarah Calderone as a school-based mental health therapist assigned to Choconut Valley Elementary for two years;

*set adult lunch price at $4.05 and breakfast price at $2.10;

*appointed board member John Wood as the district rep on the Intermediate Unit 19 Board of Directors;

*scheduled a reorganization meeting for Monday, Dec. 5, to be combined with the regular monthly work session and business meeting;

*approved estimates from Patch Management for pavement repairs at all district campuses in the amount of $22,668.

The school board will hold its November business meeting and work session on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Choconut Valley Elementary School.

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