By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Number of students in free, reduced lunch program drops
Gainesville school board to discuss redistricting at a later meeting
Placeholder Image

Other business

  • Wood’s Mill High School was approved to be added to the Gainesville City Schools’ charter system
  • Redistricting was removed from the agenda. It will be discussed at an upcoming board meeting, most likely on Dec. 12.

For the first time in four years, the Free and Reduced Lunch population at Gainesville City Schools has gone down.

In 2010, 78.44 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch prices. This year, 75.11 percent qualify.

"I think it's a testament of hope in the economy and hope in the families of our children to go home to," Gainesville City Schools Nutrition Director Tiffany Lommel told board members Monday night. "I think it shows the industry in Gainesville is helping to support our families."

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said Hall County as a whole has seen an increase in Free and Reduced Lunch populations due to the economic downturn.

"We were surprised," Dyer said. "It's not significant, but it dropped. ... "What it means is many of the people who moved here entered our schools and did not qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch."

Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School had the biggest shift, dropping to below 90 percent of its students qualifying for the program, even though its student population increased.

New Holland Core Knowledge Academy also decreased its population, leaving Gainesville Exploration Academy the only city school with more than 90 percent of students qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch.

In order to qualify for the program, parents must show their income matches a federally designated standard. Students who qualify for reduced lunches typically pay about 40 cents for their meal, compared to paid students who pay between $1.25 and $1.75 in the system.

Gainesville schools have been providing students with free breakfasts since 2003. The school system qualified for the United States Department of Agriculture's Provision 2 Meals program earlier this year, giving all students lunch for free because the Free and Reduced population was so high.

"I think it's fabulous," Board Member Maria Calkins said. "It's amazing that there are so many students who can get lunches. I think, especially at the high school, kids were just not eating lunch. Now it's there, they don't need the money. It's amazing to me the difference that has made."

Board Member Sammy Smith commended Lommel for the good news and said more recognition should be given to the system's food service employees for the work to feed the school system's children.

"I make it a point to visit kitchens often. As we enter this next budget cycle, I hope we can give some serious thought to maybe a few more hours or a few more dollars to our cafeteria staff," he said. "Many of them have reduced hours over the years. ... I share that from personal conversations and hope you will take that to heart as we enter the next budget cycle."