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LASD school lunch deficits approach $22,000; Board welcomes new member Chris Paul

With a looming January deficit of nearly $22,000 for cafeteria lunches, Littlestown Area School District (LASD) Superintendent Chris Bigger reminded parents to bring their accounts current. “We have a lot of people who have account balances in the $50 range,” he said about the more than 500 delinquent accounts. This number accounts for nearly half of the LASD students who eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Bigger said he had not seen a deficit this large in his nearly eight years working in the school system. In fact, he recalls nothing larger than $5,000 in any one month. Asked why the problem has escalated this school year, Bigger blamed it on mixed messages from the media regarding free lunches since the Covid pandemic. “For the last two years of the pandemic, all lunches were free,” explained Bigger. He reminded parents that while breakfasts continue to be offered free of charge, lunches are not.

The deficit began in October at more than $17,000 and has risen since then. This curve is not unusual according to Bigger, who says the pattern normally is that deficits begin in the fall, grow throughout the winter months, and then decline again in spring. “If people are paying down their balances, there’s no issue,” he added, but reminded parents that those accounts not paid by the end of the school could go to collections.

The board approved a cafeteria deficit report along with a breakdown addendum indicating how the deficit has been growing since October.

Chris Paul was welcomed as the newest member of the LASD school board. A former LASD alum, football coach, and Littlestown business owner is replacing outgoing board member Yancy Unger.

In other business:

  • The board approved the waiver of expulsion hearings for two high school students who were suspended for one calendar year, following an inciting incident Dec. 14. While Bigger couldn’t give details, he said a suspension such as this one is rare for the district and would most likely result from infractions around safety, weapons, or drugs. He gave as an example that something like this could happen if a student walked into a crowded cafeteria and announced they had a bomb in their backpack because of the safety concern that would ensue from panicked students. The two students will have options to continue their education until next December online or at an alternative school.
  • Policy 340, Responsibility for Student Welfare was approved on first reading by the board. The policy authorizes administrative, professional, and classified employees to have the proper oversight of and accountability for students’ welfare. Every employee has a duty to immediately report any incidents, safety hazards, unsafe or dangerous conditions, or violations of district safety regulations to the building principal or other designated employees.” Other draft policies reviewed include 006-Meeings, 137.1-Extracurricular Participation by Home Education Students and 827-Conflict of Interest.
  • With LASD’s new building about to begin construction at the end of the summer, Bigger announced there will be a lot of on-the-ground research conducted to ascertain best practices in already established grades six-to-twelve facilities. “We will go out and visit those schools to basically get some good ideas and bring them back,” he said. “We’ll be focusing on the programming side, not the bricks and mortar. A larger presentation will occur in late summer or early fall to have our ideas vetted and ready to share with you,” he added.
  • Seniors over 65 who volunteer in the LASD buildings in academics or as tutors may receive tax breaks or incentives as a thank-you. “This is an interesting concept, program, and idea,” Bigger said. Income-based, the idea is that volunteers who work on a regular schedule once or twice a week would be offered these tax breaks. “It’s not good to go yet, but we are exploring it,” Bigger added.
  • Dr. Eric Naylor reported on the Health and Safety Plan approved in March 2022. The safety committee, composed of administration, teachers, and staff, meets monthly to ensure academic excellence, student-centered decision-making, the social and emotional well-being of students and staff, and the delivery of an agile and flexible instructional model.

“We focus on student safety and review any incidents that may have occurred to make sure our protocols and practices are in place,” Naylor said. He said the committee assesses all buildings within LASD. “We’re pretty comprehensive in what we take a look at,” he added. Committee members must also participate in yearly training to ensure facilities and classroom environments follow safety protocols. “We make sure all classrooms are safe for everyone to go into every day,” he commented.

  • According to committee chair Yancy Unger, the Adams County Technical Institute has approved a comprehensive plan with a feasibility study still in the works. Addressing a comment from one board member, Superintendent Bigger said enrollment has continued to rise at the school of technology, especially among LASD students. “We don’t need more students. We need more seats,” he explained. “We are getting other schools’ seats to accommodate our students.”
  • Students of the month were applauded at the beginning of the board meeting. They include Layne Bernardi, second grade, and Carter Windsor, fifth-grade students from ACES. Brandon, Kabrick, sixth-grade student from MAMS, and LHS seniors Hannah Hitchner and Dylan Smeak were also recognized.
  • Parents are invited to join an established focus group of school employees to look at various calendar formats for ensuing years. Earlier this fall, a school-year calendar with every other Monday off was presented at a staff work session. It created some enthusiasm and concern regarding its possible effect on childcare and length of day. The focus group will look at each type of calendar presented and make recommendations from their findings.   
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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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