2018-10-11 / News

Atherton opts out of free lunch program for all students despite eligibility

By Tanya Terry
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — Atherton Community Schools is eligible for a program which would allow 100 percent of the students to receive free lunches, but is not taking part in the program.

Atherton Community Schools does participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, providing meals that are free, reduced or paid.

“The school filled out the application for the community eligibility provision, which would allow all students to eat for free, and then through a series of decisions decided not to submit that portion of the application,” said Diane Golzynski, director of the office of health and nutrition services for Michigan Department of Education.

“So, they choose not to participate in the optional provision,” Golzynski added. “Districts make that decision for a lot of community based reasons.”

Income requirements for the program depend on family size. Nationally, a family of four can make $32,630 annually or less for the children to qualify for free lunch. Recent statistics show 63.7 percent of families at Atherton Jr./Sr. High qualify for free lunches through the current program, 74.2 percent of the families with children at Atherton Elementary School qualify for free lunches and 73.9 percent of the families with children attending Atherton Alternative School qualify for free lunches.

Tom DeVaney, a special education teacher at Atherton who was at one time the high school principal, said not allowing all the students in the district to receive free lunches is a disservice to the community, and said because the district is eligible, it should be providing these services.

“Both our fellow districts here in Burton, Bentley and Bendle, are providing this service to all their students for free breakfast and free lunch,” he said.

DeVaney said a lot of families in the district are struggling financially to pay their bills, while the superintendent came into the district in 2010 making $107,000 and now in 2018 is making over $144,000.

Lunch prices were actually increased 10 cents as of Jan. 1, 2018. There were three buildings in the district before, and there are now two.

Over the summer, the district was informed of its eligibility to participate in the community eligibility provision. Initially, the district submitted a letter of interest but later withdrew it due to concerns of potentially losing a portion of its federal funding, according to the district’s superintendent, John Ploof.

Currently, the district receives a Title I allocation of almost $300,000 that is used for its early literacy specialist, reading and math coaches, social work and mental health support, summer programming and parent programs.

“Title funds are used to support all of our students,” Ploof said.

“Potentially losing any portion of that funding could result in a decrease in programming and would be unacceptable,” Ploof added. “The district is still exploring options and looking for solutions, which would allow for participation in the program. We haven’t ruled this out, we just need to make sure that other student services are not affected by our participation in this program.”

Currently, 79 percent of students at Atherton receive free or reduced-priced lunches. According to a letter sent to parents and guardians of Atherton students Dec. 11, 2017, breakfast is offered free of charge for all Atherton students.

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2018 The Burton View, All Rights Reserved

Click here for digital edition
2018-10-11 digital edition