CLARK COUNTY — Greater Clark County Schools is taking steps to make sure students have access to nutritional meals and snacks throughout the school day.
Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, two additional schools will be eligible for free meals in Greater Clark. At Tuesday's meeting, the school board voted 6-0 to include River Valley Middle School and Pleasant Ridge Elementary in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to offer healthy breakfasts and lunches at no cost to families. Board president Katie Hutchinson was absent from the meeting.
Several other schools in Greater Clark already offer free meals through the CEP program, including Corden Porter School, Maple Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Bridgepoint Elementary, Northaven Elementary, Parkview Middle School, Parkwood Elementary and Wilson Elementary.
"It's a great thing for our corporation and for our kids to know that a student is going to show up and they are going to be guaranteed a meal and not have to worry about where that money's coming from," Greater Clark Superintendent Mark Laughner said. "If we can help with that, that's a great thing for our district."
CEPs are more expansive than the free- and reduced-price meals for high poverty local educational agencies (LEAs), which is available only to eligible students, according to Natalie Turner, Greater Clark food services director. Under a CEP program, families do not have to submit household eligibility applications for the free meals.
"Being on the program allows us to feed all children within eligible schools," she said. "It help families who might be on the brink of not qualifying based on their income level. In general, it just allows families the opportunities to eat every day without placing financial burdens on themselves."
For LEAs to be eligible to use a CEP, it must have one or more schools with 40 percent or more students eligible for its free or reduced meal services. River Valley has 947 students, or 41.39 percent in the program, and Pleasant Ridge has 523, or 41.68 percent, so both schools meet that criteria for the CEP.
The agreement lasts for four consecutive years, and schools that adopt the CEP will receive federal reimbursements. A la carte purchases will not be covered under the program.
"We hope to keep adding more schools, because it is a great thing to offer for our community and for our students," Laughner said. "Because we do have students who show up to school and don't have the money for lunch and are in need. It doesn't cost the district anything. It doesn't cost us anything out of our educational fund or operational funds, so it's a great thing."
Spring Hill and Maple Elementary are also among only 131 schools in the state to receive a grant from the USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the 2019-2020 school year. The Greater Clark school board voted 6-0 at Tuesday's meeting to enter into a School Food Service Authority Agreement with the Indiana Department of Education to participate in the program.
The program provides free fruits and vegetables to elementary students during the school day. Spring Hill is receiving a total of $10,175 from the grant, and Maple is receiving a total of $10,010. Turner said the program is separate from students' lunches and breakfasts, and it will provide the healthy snacks for teachers to hand out in their classrooms at the end of the day.
Through the program, students might receive the fruits and vegetables about two to three times a week, depending on funding, she said. The schools will provide a variety of items such as avocados, dragonfruit, plums and different types of apples and pears, and teachers are encouraged teach students about the health benefits of the fruits and vegetables.
“I think the one benefit is that gives them an additional snack during school day, but another benefit is that some families might not able to purchase higher price fruits and vegetables, but the kids can try something haven’t seen or heard of before," she said. "They might try at school and then tell their families about it and try to get it at the grocery as well."
In addition to items on food services, the Greater Clark school board voted 6-0 to approve environmental restrictions on the use of property located at the Mark Fetter Center for Professional Learning at 1613 E. 10th St., which is across from a former gas station (now home to a Papa John's).
While most of the benzene contamination has been remediated, some groundwater contaminants still remain at the site. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management requested the placement of an Environmental Restrictive Covenant on the property deed to prohibit extraction of groundwater from the area for both consumption and industrial purposes. This likely would not have an impact on the school district, since water would be delivered by Indiana American Water instead of being pulled from the site, according to April Geltmaker, general counsel to Greater Clark.