The Natalia School Board voted unanimously at their monthly meeting on August 14 to close the high school campus at lunch, effective with the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.
Dr. Jane Harris, NHS principal, made the initial request to close the campus and addressed the Board on the matter.
“Safety is always going to be the first concern,” Harris said, noting that suggestions have been made to extend the 30-minute lunch period. “My experience has been, regardless of the time set, if the campus was open, the students would push as far as they could go, as fast as they could go.”
Recent NHS policy allowed juniors and seniors to earn off-campus lunch permits based on a combination of passing grades, office referrals, and attendance records, as well as parental permission.
Harris said that an average of 20 students left campus for lunch last year.
NISD has adopted the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for the upcoming school year, which is a non-pricing meal service option for low-income school districts. NISD already provides free breakfast to all students in the classroom every morning, and with CEP, will serve free lunches to all students as well.
“To me, there’s no rhyme or reason to continue [an open campus] when we can feed every student every day and keep them as safe as possible by keeping them on campus,” Harris said.
Student representative Priscilla Seaton was concerned about line cutting, while fellow student rep Samantha Sanchez pointed out that the school needs to do a better job of selling students on cafeteria food and the options available, and Harris agreed those were important issues to address.
After an Eric Owens-Paul Almendarez motion to close the NHS campus during lunch passed 7-0, Child Nutrition Director Joey Moczygemba discussed ongoing changes and improvements in his department, including Farm Fresh Fridays.
“I found a local farmer involved in co-op farming,” Moczygemba said. “And what co-op farming is, is when you have one farmer who works with a bunch of other farmers in the area to produce a menu. We’re going to sit down and come up with a farm schedule of what the local farms will be producing on a monthly basis, and that way we’ll be able to buy their produce fresh, and we’ll be able to produce it in some way for our students.”
Region 20 has recently started a program called Harvest of the Month, which Moczygemba explained highlights what is currently being harvested in the area.
“In September we’re going to do melons,” Moczygemba said. “That’s the very end of the melon season, and I know students love having fresh fruit for dessert.”
Moczygemba also said that more herbs and spices will be used to help give food more flavor, and that new entree items such as Salisbury steak, fried chicken, and chicken fried steak will be available.
A choice of two entrees will be provided at NES, NJHS, and NHS, and students can purchase extra servings for $1.50. Additionally, salads and sandwiches will be available at NJHS and NHS.
By Marly Davis