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School to provide free lunches for all students

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All Elgin ISD students will have access to both free breakfast and lunch for the upcoming school year, whether they are learning on-campus or remotely.

When the schools first shut down, Elgin ISD offered breakfast and lunch for students each day starting on March 24, available at Elgin Elementary School and various locations throughout the community. In April, the school district instead offered breakfast and lunch for the entire week each Monday at the three elementary schools. This continued throughout the summer. On August 24, meals were again offered daily; at first, regular charges would still apply for lunches. All Elgin ISD students eat breakfast for free.

Last Monday, the Elgin ISD school board held a special meeting, during which they discussed a budget amendment that would fund free lunches for each student, not just those who qualify.

Assuming every student takes advantage of the free lunches provided, the cost would be $350,000 for the entire 2020-2021 school year. This estimate is based on 175 students who receive reduced-price lunches at 40 cents each and 676 students who pay full price for lunch: $2.50 at the elementary schools, $2.75 at the middle school and $3 at the high school.

The school district’s general fund will cover the cost of the meals, and funds will be transferred monthly into the child nutrition fund based on the amount of participation by students. If the cost for the program comes out to less than $350,000, the balance will remain in the general fund.

“We would like to be able to fund our student lunches for this school year particularly,” Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron said. “Under the current circumstances, we certainly want to give families some relief if we can. This is a good faith effort to reach out to our community and make sure our kids are taken care of, whether they choose remote or in-person, and provide meals for the students that we serve.”

Elgin ISD chief financial officer Debra George said child nutrition staff will record which students are receiving meals, just like they do during a regular school year.

For students attending school remotely, meals can be picked up curbside at any school campus; students don’t have to get meals at their home campus. Parents can pick up meals without the student present, but must provide the student’s ID number.

This program would begin the day after the school board meeting last Monday.

The budget amendment for the free lunches passed 4-0; the other three board members lost electricity before the vote was taken and were no longer in the Zoom call, leaving a quorum of the board to make the vote.

High school in-person schedule set

The school board also approved requesting a waiver for the high school to implement a hybrid schedule for high-schoolers in place of 100% in-person instruction once some students return to campus.

Under Elgin High School’s plan, freshmen and sophomores would be in the A group, while juniors and seniors would be in the B group. Most weeks, the A group would be at the school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the B group would come to campus on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Most Fridays would be a choice day, where students could receive either in-person or remote support.

The waiver must be submitted two weeks before Elgin ISD begins in-person instruction and must show that at least 40% of the high school students’ days will be on campus, Duron said.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) originally required schools to give families two options—completely online learning or completely on-campus learning—as well as a third optional hybrid method where students would spend part of their time on campus. Offering all three schedules would be too difficult for Elgin ISD, given its size and amount of staff, Duron said. Then, TEA allowed high schools to replace the in-person option with the hybrid option upon approval of the waiver.