Something good happened in Moose Pass on Thursday.
People sat down and talked about finding a positive solution to a decision that could have had negative consequences.
The decision was made to pull the lunch program from the rural school this year. At least 15 lunches need to be served per paid staffing hour to make it worthwhile, which has not been the case. In Moose Pass, just five lunches were being served per hour of paid staff time.
A similar situation exists at Hope School, but parents have known for sometime the school lunch program might not be continued there, and the program is still scheduled to be discontinued.
While it’s obvious the numbers don’t add up in Moose Pass, it wasn’t so much why the decision was made as how it was handled.
“The cook got a termination notice, that’s how we found out,” said parent Erin Knotek.
Apparently word spread like wildfire, which sent a few concerned residents to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board’s meeting Monday night. They had a few things they wanted to say about the program and the board.
“I stood by and kinda watched the art and music slide out of school, I saw the sports programs all eliminated, and I just don’t understand why it would even be on the agenda to take a hot lunch program away from these kids,” said Don Kent.
“They’ve had a lot of programs taken away from them in the past, and it’s really hard to explain to them why kids over here have these programs. I don’t know what to tell them about equality,” Kent said.
Obviously, smaller communities generally don’t receive the same opportunities as larger ones, but it goes without saying that nutrition shouldn’t be one of them.
Granted, the more students the better the numbers look on paper. But it’s difficult to equate a balance or profit in every category, especially where our children are concerned.
Some parents have come to depend on these meals as guaranteed nutrition for their children, and taking that away would put more strain at home.
After explaining the decision and why it was handled the way it was, Glen Szymoniak, assistant superintendent of administrative services, touted the school’s cook, but noted she needed to hear the news first not last.
“People were notified, they just didn’t like the timing,” Szymoniak said. “Although parents may not like it that they found out from the cook, we would rather the cook not find out from the parents.”
Knotek said earlier notice would have provided the community the chance to offer creative solutions. Faced with the district’s decision, she said they are willing to work to find an answer.
Luckily, the district is listening.
For the time being, the hot lunch program at Moose Pass will continue.
Szymoniak arranged to meet with parents Thursday at the school to discuss possible alternatives.
He said he can’t guarantee anything, “because that’s why we’re running in the red.” On the other hand, he’s confident there’s a solution to be found.
The efforts going into keeping the program afloat must be applauded for both sides. After all, it’s much more beneficial to have our children hungry for knowledge than lunch.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.