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Change in the works for school lunch preparation?

How lunches are prepared for students at Cluster Springs Early Learning Center could change next year when Halifax County School Board revisits the idea in May. 

During Monday’s school board meeting at Clays Mill Elementary School, Food Service Coordinator Lori Hale asked the board to look at options for providing food service at the early learning center.

After losing money in food service for the past year, Hale said she sees the need for a change.

“The participation level is not high enough to maintain the current staff and operations going into the 2014-15 school year,” she said.

Out of the roughly 82 students attending the early learning center, an average of 50 students purchase lunch each day. 

The food service coordinator said Halifax County Food Service would like to take a different approach to how the meals are served rather than closing the kitchen completely. 

Hale suggested lunches be prepared at Cluster Springs Elementary School and transported to the early learning center at mealtime. 

She also addressed having a limited staff. 

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon explained jobs are not in jeopardy, but that several people will be retiring or leaving their positions. 

Several board members expressed concerns about making the suggested change.

Vice-Chairman Dick Stoneman questioned how the temperature of the food would be maintained as it is transported to the school.

Hale explained she would like to look into purchasing thermals for the food. 

She also added some of the lunch items would still be delivered and stored at the early learning center such as milk, condiments, napkins and silverware. 

Stoneman also said he was not in favor of having the new kitchen equipment at the early learning center not being used.

Chairman Kim Farson questioned if lunch purchases are already low, “how would delivering meals encourage more students to participate?” 

The food service coordinator said she would encourage parents to look at Head Start where they currently serve satellite meals. 

“I have had no complaints there,” said Hale. 

If participation were to increase, no reason would exist for the kitchen not to become fully operational again.  

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts requested Hale to provide the board with figures that show how much participation would be needed to “break even” in order for operations to stay at the site.

He also requested total enrollment for the early learning center next year. 

Most board members said they were “uncomfortable” with making a decision Monday night because they had not seen figures prior to the meeting. 

They approved a motion brought by ED-5 school board member Roger Long to put the food service plan for Cluster Springs Early Learning Center 2014-15 FY on the agenda for next month’s board meeting. 

In other business, the board reviewed the revision to the Policy GCG Professional Staff Probationary Term and Continuing Contract presented by Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall. 

The policy now reads, “Within two weeks of the approval of the school budget by the appropriating body, but no later than July 1, the school board will notify any teacher who may be subject to a reduction in force due to a decrease in the school board’s budget as approved by the appropriating body.” 

The previous policy revision read June 1 rather than July 1. 

The policy is slated to be discussed and voted on at the next meeting. 

The board also approved the 2014-15 special education annual plan brought by Director of Special Education Jeffrey Davis. 

 The plan includes total local and state revenues and expenditures for the school division’s special education program for school year 2014-2015.

The projected local funds equal $2,394,218 with added state funds totaling $5,852,532. 

The division must budget the same or higher amounts to meet the maintenance of effort eligibility requirements using either dollar or per capita amounts, as stated in the plan, Davis said.

Local plus state funding amounts to $5,930 per child enrolled in the program.

In other business, the board approved and showed their support for the Halifax County Middle School conference to change its district for sports to the Junior Piedmont District (see related story in Sports section). 

In recognitions, Marshall was recognized for winning the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA) State Leadership Award for Virginia during its recognition program in Washington, D.C., in March.  

The award recognizes current or former NAFEPA members who have assumed significant roles in the support and promotion of activities and goals of the state affiliate organization.   

Marshall provides supervision, manages several federal programs and oversees human resources for Halifax County Public Schools and serves on the VAFEPA Board representing Region VIII.  

The school system’s first Title I pre-kindergarten program began under Marshall’s leadership.  In addition, she had a vision to establish a resource center for parents.

Meadville teacher Kim Waller also was recognized Monday evening for her school garden/outdoor classroom being chosen as one of 62 school divisions in the VSBA Showcases for Success 2014.

Waller told how she has used her creativity and imagination to provide a hands-on learning experience for her students by transforming recyclable materials into items used in her garden. 

Meadville students have grown both crops and flowers as well as kept a log for their growth. 

Waller was able to create this garden with the help of her parents, local donations and a $235 grant given by the Halifax County Public Schools Education Foundation.

Phase two of her project will begin next year thanks to another grant of $300. 

“Thank you Kim, we are proud of you and Meadville,” said Herndon.

“The kids are extremely enthusiastic and proud of this project. They are excited and can tell you anything you want to know about that garden. You’ve done a great job,” added Chairman Farson. 

Prior to the meeting, the school board members went into closed session to discuss student discipline.  

The open session began with the board approving one student to be suspended for the remainder of this year with Novanet and return to school in January 2015.