Summer meals program uncertain due to campus construction projects

By Robert Williams

Editor

The return and success of the Match Mentoring Program at Frazee-Vergas School, along with the summer rec program and summer meals, were discussed at the school board meeting Monday, April 11.

Match program leads Heather Perrine and Sara Jacobson, along with three students, updated the school board on the success of matching high school students with elementary students. 

Both Perrine and Jacobson approached elementary principal Travis Nagel about bringing the program back a year ago.

“We’ve been going through the program and had a lot of positive experiences with it,” said Nagel.

There are 57 students involved in the program. Individual high school students visit the elementary once to twice per week to join one to two elementary students with an emphasis on building relationships, helping with homework and creating bonds.

The program has received positive feedback from teachers at both schools, along with the kids involved.

The program emphasizes quality over quantity. There is also an online tracking system being discussed, thanks to assistance from elementary secretary Cindy Wischnak.

Matching the right students with each other on both ends is also a priority.

“Next year we will have an idea what kids have done well and others who might not need it as much,” said Jacobson.

The program received positive responses from the board, including Clerk Daneele Shipman,” she said. 

“I was so excited to see this program come back.”

The efforts of the high school students, 41 in total, were recognized as making the program a success.

“I was so, so impressed to see how great our high school kids are,” said Jacobson. “The way they care about these kids and take part out of their day, donating their time. It was awesome to see at such a young age.”

Electives

Regarding elective classes at the junior high and high school levels, Karger stressed the need to find balance with offered classes.

“We want to have good, quality electives, good classes for our kids to take,” he said.

Currently, between the junior and senior high grades, there are 20 classes that have an average class size of just six students. 

Specifically, in seventh and eighth grade electives, six classes have student enrollments of 10 or less with a class average of 7.

In freshman through senior electives, 14 classes have student enrollments of 10 or less with a class average of 5.

“We need to figure out a way to bring some balance to what we offer and when we offer it so we get those class sizes to 12-15 at a minimum,” said Karger. “We have some work to do there on electives.”

The school board discussed a rotation plan at the March meeting with a potential determination coming after gathering input from students before the next school year.

College credit available courses are also on the decline. Policy changes passed down from the higher education board, have made offering in-person, college courses in the high school more difficult. 

Instructors need to have a specific master’s degree related to the coursework to provide the instruction. Funding has also been an issue.

Summer meals program

The summer meals program is under discussion with some changes coming in a few months. The program itself may be paused given the breadth of upcoming construction projects planned for the campus and added labor on kitchen staff.

As it stands, school-age students can still eat free this summer, but they have to eat in the cafeteria. Last year, the program was available to kids from birth through 18-years-old and was run as a drive-thru. 

According to Karger, construction is the main issue. Secondly, having kids mandated to eat in the cafeteria creates more work for staff. 

Karger and Food Services Manager Cheryl Neyens have had preliminary discussions on the stress of the program over the past year on staff and the potential need for more time off, if not a complete pause of the program.

“Right now, and I’ve been asked to look at other options and I surely will, we’re leaning to taking the summer off for those various reasons,” said Karger.

Other options are doing the program offsite. Karger is going to complete more research before making a final decision on the program.

The Summer Food Nutrition Program has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A separate program aided in breakfast and lunch meals at school this year.

Most food programs are related to the number of free and reduced lunch applicants. More information and the application is available on the school and district website.

Next year, when school begins the former reduced lunch model will return where the district will be charging for meals.

School Board member Tyler Trieglaff clarified that every student will eat regardless of their status.