From my desk
With the school year fast approaching, the need for parents to fill out free or reduced lunch applications should be included in back-to-school to-do lists. By doing so, parents can have a positive impact on school revenue.
The Frazee School Board held a special meeting in late June to discuss and approve the preliminary school district budget for the 2022-23 school year.
Business Manager Chrissy Clapsaddle reported on a decline in revenue for the fiscal year.
A primary reason for declining revenues was tied to the district’s decline in enrollment, making the need for free or reduced applications more urgent.
As of late June, enrollment for the coming year is 828 students, a decrease of 19 students, however those numbers are subject to change prior to the start of the school year.
The lack of a summer food service program also had a negative effect on revenue. Last year, the Minnesota Department of Education approved the district to be part of the 2021 Summer Food Nutrition Program. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program provided free breakfasts and lunches to children up to 18-years-old.
This summer, a similar lunch program would have required students to eat the lunch onsite, rather than the takeout manner during the pandemic. Given the construction going on at both the high school and elementary campuses, the summer lunch program was eliminated for this year.
The board had a lengthy discussion on the negative effect of parents not filling out free and reduced lunch applications and its direct correlation to less funding for the district.
“I just want to make sure that the public understands we are not receiving our full potential of income because a portion of our public isn’t filling out the forms,” said board treasurer Nathan Matejka. “It’s not something we’re not doing; it’s something that we’re not getting.”
Vice chair Kimberly Antonsen noted that families who may or may not qualify are asked to complete the paperwork.
“If they think they do qualify, they should,” she said. “Some people feel they aren’t going to qualify so they don’t fill it out but you still should.”
Last September, board chair Thaddeus Helmers made a direct plea to parents to use the benefits. He reported in 2017-18 there were 47 percent of district residents utilizing free and reduced lunches. That number dropped to 35 percent in 2021.
The district lost upwards of $200,000 and that trend is continuing if families do not apply for the benefit.
That loss of revenue can translate to larger class sizes and reduction in staff, along with benefits lost like waived activity fees.
A direct link to the application is located on the district’s website by selecting the Departments drop-down menu and expanding the food service-nutrition drop-down to select free-reduced lunch application or by visiting directly at: frazee.k12.mn.us/departments/food-service-nutrition/free-reduced-lunch