Hundreds more students will eat free breakfast, lunch this year in Lexington

Students who had been receiving reduced price meals in Fayette County Schools will receive free meals in 2017-18.
Students who had been receiving reduced price meals in Fayette County Schools will receive free meals in 2017-18. File art

Fayette County Public Schools students who had been paying reduced meal prices will eat free in 2017-2018 under a waiver approved Monday by the school board.

At least 640 students district-wide will be affected.

Families whose income is between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level have been eligible to receive reduced-price meals. Michelle Coker, the district director of child nutrition, said at Monday’s school board meeting that a high percentage of students whose families qualify for reduced price meals tend to struggle with payments. For a family of four, the federal poverty level would be an annual income of $24,600.

District officials say there is a persistent academic achievement gap between students living in poverty and those who are not.

“When students are hungry, it’s very difficult for them to achieve,” Coker told board members.

Students eligible for reduced price meals who had been paying 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch will eat free in 2017-18.

“This is one of the best things that can happen,” board member Doug Barnett said.

Regular lunch prices are $2.50 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and $2.75 for students in sixth through 12th grade. Regular breakfasts cost $1.35 for K-12 students.

The Kentucky Department of Education agreed to the decision to eliminate reduced price meals.

Coker said the district hopes to continue to cover the fee of the reduced price meals beyond the 2017-18 school year.

2018-2019 school calendar

In other action, school board members approved the calendar for 2018-19. School will begin on Aug. 15 and end on May 28 for students in 2018-19. That is similar to the calendar for 2017-18, when school begins Aug. 16 and ends May 25.

For at least the next two years in Fayette County, school is set to start later and end later than in 2016-17 when school started Aug. 10.and ended on May 19.

Steve Hill, director of Pupil Personnel, recently told school board members that the later start dates reflect the sentiment of state lawmakers who have been concerned that Kentucky school districts begin the instructional year too early in August.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears