The Roanoke County School Board recognized the Summer Feeding program at Herman L. Horn Elementary School. Burlington Elementary in Roanoke County also participated in the USDA grant program offered for the first time in Virginia this year.
Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) applied to participate based on free and reduced lunch rates at the two schools and all feeder schools. According to Penny Hodge, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, the program was scheduled from 11 to 12 on Mondays through Thursdays and offered a free lunch to all children with no exceptions and no paperwork required.
Hodge said the program came together quickly and through the efforts of many people in the school system and in the community. Approval was granted on June 6, and the program was up and running one week later on June 13.
Those she thanked at the School Board meeting on August 10 included Rhonda Huffman and Jaime Estrada, who planned the menu and had the food on hand, ready to serve on June 13.
“They reached out to nutrition staff and made tentative plans for staffing,” said Hodge. “They created the marketing plan and made the rounds to post flyers at libraries, grocery stores, laundromats, apartments, and anywhere else they thought may catch the eye of parents.”
Huffman said that they basically had to “guesstimate” from experience how many students to prepare for on a daily basis. They averaged about 50 students served each day.
Hodge went on to thank HLH principal Peggy Stovall and Burlington principal Susan Brown (formerly principal at HLH) who both “readily agreed to allow this program in their schools when we approached them. They both jumped on it immediately. They were also known to walk to nearby pools, basketball courts, and apartments looking for children and even supported the program by buying their own lunches.”
She recognized the nutrition managers and workers from various schools who “came together to work, share ideas, build excitement, and welcome our lunch visitors. In the first few days, some went out to the road with hand-made signs to advertise the program and others visited neighboring businesses to get the word out. These ladies shared and learned ideas from each other that they will take back to their home schools this fall.”
Hodge thanked Dr. Ken Nicely for reaching out to the Vinton Police, Roanoke County Police, and Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office for manpower during the daily lunch hour. Officers were present each day for the hour-long lunch.
“Our hope was to avoid any discipline issues or other disturbances,” said Hodge. “What we ended up seeing were officers interacting with children, nutrition staff, administrators, and each other– all positive results.”
Hodge said that secondary assistant principals and Central Office staff also played a role in the success of the program by providing adequate supervision in the cafeteria. Rhonda Stegall, Director of Secondary Instruction, asked for volunteers to cover two days of the summer feeding program.
“Our assistant principals and some of our other administrators who volunteered provided on the spot supervision, but also built relationships with the nutrition staff, custodial staff, school principals, and law enforcement officers,” noted Hodge.
She commended the Operations staff, led by George Assaid, Director of Facilities and Operations, who “ensured that access to the cafeteria was appropriate and secure. Modifications in our seating arrangements at HLH were made mid-stream to accommodate a cafeteria floor replacement. The maintenance staff was very responsive to creating a clean and dust-free environment.”
Community Relations Specialist Chuck Lionberger “provided website publicity and an instant message that went out to all parents before the first day of the program.”
And finally, Hodge thanked the custodial staff who helped to ensure that the facility was ready each day.
Hodge said that during the five-week program, 1,465 meals were served to children and youth. In addition, the summer program gave employment to nutrition staff, secured federal funding for the RCPS nutrition program, and provided free lunches for all students attending summer school at HLH and Burlington.
According to Hodge, there were intangibles as well for the summer feeding program– there was “tremendous energy and enthusiasm from everyone involved demonstrated by daily counts, repeat customers, and even student manners.” Hodge says it was a “priceless benefit” that relationships were built and strengthened throughout the schools and community.
She and the School Board hope that the program will continue and expand in Roanoke County next year. She says that the program helped them develop many ideas to carry forward.
“All credit for this program goes to Penny Hodge and staff,” said School Board Chairman Tim Greenway, who represents Vinton on the board. “They found a federal grant program. It has allowed us to help those folks needing a helping hand. Our children are most precious to all of us. We don’t want one to go hungry for a day. I hope we can expand next year.”
Those representing Herman L. Horn at the August 10 meeting were HLH Principal Peggy Stovall, Assistant Principal Leanne Leftwich, Connie Sawyer from the cafeteria staff, Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster and Captain Fabricio Drumond.
In other School Board news, Ben Williams, Director of Testing and Administration, opened the August 10 meeting by informing the board that 100 new teachers had been hired in the school system this year after interviewing hundreds of candidates. They will “impact the lives of students for years to come.”
The board approved a new course described by Jason Suhr from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology. “Registered Apprenticeship” is a structured training program that combines on the job training and related technical instruction through a cooperative process with RCPS, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, and a registered employer. Students enrolled in the program will be monitored and coordinated by the Career and Technical Education staff of Roanoke County Schools, and will be employees of the registered business or industry.
This program allows RCPS to identify appropriate and in-demand career fields, allowing a structured method of guiding students in a career pathway. Students are able to earn industry credentials and to be enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program that will continue post-graduation. Five students will be working with the Western Virginia Water Authority.
Roanoke County is ahead of other school districts in the state in introducing this innovative program, which the board hopes will expand. Greenway said this program is “an opportunity for Roanoke County to shine,” and to prepare students for the workforce as skilled laborers.
Also at the meeting on August 10, the School Board was briefed on fees for the 2017-2018 school year.
School lunches this year will cost $2.55 for grades K-5, $2.80 for grades 6-12 (an increase from last year), with reduced price lunches 40 cents.
Breakfast will cost $1.35 (also an increase from last year) with reduced price breakfast at 30 cents.
PE uniforms are $4 for shirts, $9 for shorts, or $13 for both. Purchase of a gym uniform is not required if comparable shirt and shorts are provided.
The fee for take-home laptop computers for grades 6-12 is $50, or $25 for those on free or reduced lunch.
High school student parking is $40. High school class fees are $10 for grades 9-11 and $20 for seniors.